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Death by PowerPoint is Avoidable. Here’s How.

If you want your audience to engage with your educational content, whether it’s in an internal training scenario or a face-to-face interaction between medical science liaisons (MSLs) and healthcare professionals (HCPs), you can’t rely on the information itself to do the heavy lifting. When you do, you lose engagement in your audience.

Unfortunately, this is all too common in the pharmaceutical industry. Information overload is a common phenomenon, and it happens because organizations have so much vital data to communicate, yet no strategy to maximize the impact.

Often, PowerPoint itself shoulders the blame for ineffective, lackluster educational content. However, that’s not truly the case — most users only ever scratch the surface of the program’s capabilities. Instead of immediately blaming the software, it’s beneficial to dive deeper into how you can leverage PowerPoint to make the most impactful content.

Don’t bore your audiences with endless, text-heavy slide decks that are essentially a scientific publication in presentation form. Here’s how to optimize your content.

Where Medical Affairs Slide Decks Go Wrong

Seemingly innovative and intuitive alternatives like Prezi, Visme or Keynote will be just as boring as a poorly-designed PowerPoint presentation if they lack a strategy and thoughtful design. This is the main problem for the monotonous, text-heavy slide decks the medical affairs industry is accustomed to.

Often, slide decks are created without a strategic focus. When these decks are put together, whether it’s hastily or with great care to include every bit of information, the output ends in the same result: information overload. A PowerPoint like this might include all the pertinent information, but it won’t have a strong communication strategy that helps the audience relate to and retain the information.

Almost every boring, tedious PowerPoint presentation is created without thoughtful communication tactics. Here are the three most common pitfalls:

1. Not Tailoring to Your Audience

Presentations should be strategic and focused tightly on the audience. This means thinking about your audience’s specific needs before putting a deck together, and frequently, making singular slide decks within your presentation specifically tailored to that audience.

When you don’t consider the relevance or interest of each piece of information, you will lose your audience’s attention. For example, one group of HCPs might be very curious about the mechanism of action of your therapy; others might want to focus on the safety data. Both topics are important, but most slide decks will cover all this information in a haphazard way. This means the audience will have a harder time identifying the key takeaways and finding specific information when they need it.

2. Making Information Indigestible

When your information lacks personalization, it’s hard for your audience to relate and stay engaged. Engagement decreases even more when you include walls of text and multiple concepts on each slide.

The more text you include, the less your audience will actually retain. The goal is to educate HCPs. Overloading slides with text makes it difficult for your audience to differentiate the main concepts from the supporting information.

3. Lacking Design Organization

Beyond including too much text, your audience needs to be able to visually parse what’s important. Using design to highlight key takeaways and call attention to the main concepts makes it easier for audiences to learn and retain information. When your slide deck looks like an encyclopedia entry, you lose the audience’s attention and decrease knowledge retention.

The functionality of design spans far beyond aesthetics. Good design increases audience engagement, makes your deck more organized and results in a more enjoyable and educational experience for your audience.

Three Ways to Level Up Your Medical Affairs Slide Deck

All these pitfalls stem from one bigger issue: a lack of strategy.

When you start designing your slide decks around targeted personas, proven communication principles and effective learning tools, you’ll be setting your efforts up for success. Here are three ways you can level up your PowerPoint presentations to have the maximum impact on your audience.

1. Incorporate a Storyline

A clear structure and a compelling storyline are key to making your presentations educational and effective. To craft a strong narrative, pose questions and use the slides in your presentation to provide clear answers.

Think about your information with an overarching narrative: Who is it for? Why do they need this information? And ensure all information is connected back to that foundational message.

Within the narrative, consider how your audience will synthesize information. At MedComms Experts, we adhere to the “rule of threes.” This is because three pieces of key information is a good amount for your audience to digest. Any more than that, and you risk information overload. The key is to make your data bite-size and digestible for your audience.

2. Be Concise

There’s a reason encyclopedias have volumes. You can’t expect all the information you need to live in one single book. In the same vein, you can’t expect all the information you have on a topic to be on one slide.

Making sure every word counts means you can use less words. That, plus adding visual cues, helps your audience retain key information. Reviewing each slide while asking yourself “what on this slide does not add value?” will help you reduce the content until it contains the essential information only.

Instead of packing information on one slide, break down complex concepts across multiple slides. Consider tailoring decks to each persona, making it possible to streamline content and eliminate information that doesn’t pertain to this audience.

The ability to be concise serves your audience well. It allows them to focus on the major concepts and key takeaways while relating the information in front of them to what they already know and have experienced.

3. Include Interactivity

Driving audience engagement is a main challenge of Medical Affairs professionals — and interactivity is the solution. There are multiple ways you can add interactivity to your presentations.

First, creating personalized menus and nonlinear navigation allows your audience to choose their own path through the presentation. In this scenario, an HCP could ask questions about the mechanism of action, and after learning about that, navigate to common patient questions if that’s the next logical step in their educational journey. Using these tools makes relevant information more accessible within your presentation, and provides a personalized content experience to your audience.

Next, using clickable visuals that provide information when prompted, question-and-answer slides or even gamification tactics make your presentations more immersive for your audience. These tactics drive engagement and help HCPs of all learning styles relate to and retain important information.

Facilitated Storytelling Is the Future

It’s time to retire the PowerPoints that sedate your audience with repetitive formatting and small text.

FaST Decks, or facilitated storytelling decks, are a way we leverage all the features of PowerPoint to create engaging, effective presentations that have an impact on your audience.

Underutilizing the features of PowerPoint means under-educating your audience. Word count and slide count don’t translate to value for the HCPs who need important information to do their jobs. When the takeaways from your presentation are unclear, engagement, and therefore results, suffer.

To get better engagement, better results and ultimately, MSLs that are empowered to succeed at their jobs, create tools that work. Though PowerPoint doesn’t seem like a cutting-edge technology, the more creative you get, the more you’ll engage your audience.