What PowerPoint has in common with filmmaking

At Buffalo7 we have our own unique approach to PowerPoint design.

We believe that a presentation is an exercise in storytelling similar to a film or play, and this principle informs every project we work on.

The template acts as the set, each slide is a different scene in the story, and we design ‘characters’ to mount the action. The problem in the story becomes the villain of the piece and the dramatic climax comes when key issues are resolved.

PowerPoint Design

So presentations share some key features with film. But in terms of process, what parts of filmmaking can be drawn on to improve your PowerPoint design?

Storytelling is Key

If you were a filmmaker and wanted to tell a powerful, compelling story that your audience could connect with, you wouldn’t simply pick up a camera, collar some actors and start filming. So why fire up PowerPoint and begin dumping your content into it without proper thought for narrative and structure?

Storytelling has been a key feature of human communication from our earliest history for good reason. When we digest a story, different parts of our brains are activated and retention increases dramatically – which is exactly the outcome you want for your audience, right?

Like with film, your presentation is a container for a story – a narrative apparatus that allows you to deliver information in a compelling and exciting way.

PowerPoint might not be first tool that comes to mind when you think about storytelling –
it’s more likely to conjure connotations of corporate meetings, endless bloated text and bullet pointing – but this is only because improper use has given the application a bad name.

Give your presentation story dramatic structure with a beginning, middle and end: set the scene with some background information, create interest by establishing conflict, then build the action towards critical points and end with a meaningful resolution that reinforces your key messages.

Sequencing is Everything

Once you’ve decided on your key messages and have largely hashed out your content, you’ll want to establish the exact running order of your slides.

In filmmaking, things start with a script then move into production and photography. These components are subsequently amalgamated in the editing room to produce the final product that viewers see.

PowerPoint design works in a similar way. Your presentation content and story are established first, then you’ll create key PowerPoint design layouts and transfer this material into them before delivering your presentation to an audience.

However, you’ll find that things almost always move around in the running order when implemented into PowerPoint – what makes sense written in longform won’t always translate exactly into a visual medium such as slides.

Chopping and changing of course uses up additional time and creates further work, so it’s a good idea to establish sequencing for your presentation before implementing your content into PowerPoint designs. A great tip for defining final running order ahead of launching PowerPoint is to scribble down the content of each slide onto post-it notes and place them in desired order.

This will give you a clear, tangible idea of the overall scope of your presentation and exactly what should come where. It also means you can change the order of content without the need to edit your final PowerPoint designs.

Establishing Mise-en-Slide

The film expression mise-en-scène – literally meaning ‘place on stage’ – refers to the visual composition of a scene, incorporating set dressing, lighting, props and even the positioning of the actors themselves to evoke information about tone and setting.

Your PowerPoint design should do exactly the same thing. Your slides aren’t just a container for your messaging – they should add to it. Pay special attention to graphic elements on your slides and make sure that they chime well with and enhance your content.

Choose the best colours for your presentation based on your brand and content, use presentation fonts that match you message, and ensure consistent visuals across all slides by using a slick, impactful PowerPoint template and slide master.

Timing Creates Drama

‘What happens next?’ is the most compelling question that drives the plot of a film, and in fact all forms of fiction. It should also be the question you want your audience to be asking themselves as you keep them on the edge of their seats.

The format of PowerPoint is such that it reveals one piece of information at a time, so use this to your advantage: it’s perfectly suited for building multiple layers of messaging, creating cliff-hangers and pulling off dramatic reveals.

When presenting, build up your story to critical points, then use PowerPoint to reveal a slide with a shocking statistic or fact that has real meaning for your audience

Still need help with your PowerPoint design? Get in touch at and our team of presentation designers will be delighted to offer a free PowerPoint review.

Ask for help designing your presentation.

Contact us at:  
+44 (0)161 533 7777

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