Accelerate Your PowerPoint Deck Creation: From Days to Hours

Updated: Aug 29, 2023
Accelerate Your PowerPoint Deck Creation: From Days to Hours

In business school, it gradually became evident that becoming a management consultant was my dream job.

The world of management consulting was mystical; part secretive, part Excel models and slide decks. People would talk about McKinsey, BCG, and Bain with a sense of awe and wonder. Words like “toolbox”, “frameworks” and “problem solving” would be uttered with the greatest respect.

So when I joined Bain, I had a clear idea about what I was going to learn.

Having now left Bain, a common question I often get is: “What did you learn?”

Since I can't possibly sum everything up in a single post, I'll start by passing on 9 slide-making tactics that I use every day and that have made me 10x faster at creating stellar presentations.

Slide-making process

1. Understand your audience

Different audiences require distinct slide decks. For instance, a deck for a CEO meeting should be very different in both form and content from one for a design workshop. In Bain, most decks were created for senior management stakeholders and would typically be longer, data-heavy slide decks serving as the foundation for complex decisions.  

2. Knowledge — Emotion — Action  

What do you aim for your audience to understand, feel, and act upon after your presentation or meeting? Novices primarily focus on the knowledge aspect, while intermediates consider knowledge and action. However, experts lay emphasis on the emotional response they want to elicit (fear of inaction, excitement, etc.). 

3. Presentation slides vs. discussion slides

If you google ‘best practice tips for designing presentations’, you will see the conventional rules repeated again and again: Use large fonts, big images, and minimal text.

These rules are not wrong, but they rarely apply to consultation presentations. Most often, consulting slide decks fall into one of two buckets – presentations to read or presentations to be delivered in person.    
The long presentation to be read often serves as the starting point when creating the trimmed-down presentation deck. It's essential to know your objective before you start building your presentation.

Two types on consulting presentations

4.   Draft your storyline on paper 

Start on paper and draft a clear narrative using the following three steps:    

(a) Pick an overarching framework for your storyline   
Your entire deck should narrate an engaging story.   
Many consulting decks follow the SCQA framework: Situation > Complication > Question > Answer Other successful frameworks might be Past → Present → Future or Problem → Solution → Evidence.

(b) Draft slide titles    
Divide each A4 page into four sections, each representing a slide. Craft a concise action title of less than 15 words for each slide which becomes the slide's title. This can also be done as a text document or similar. The goal is to be able to read the titles and from that alone understand the gist of the deck. See more tips on creating action titles here.

(c) Outline supporting data for each slide    
Would a graph or a table be helpful? Or perhaps a few bullet points in large font? Sketch out your first best guess of what type of data (numbers, text, images etc.) that you think is needed to support the slide title and that is plausible to get. This is likely to change during your project, but it provides you with a solid starting point to understand which data and analyses you should prioritize.


Drafting slides on paper

5. Review and tweak with a colleague

Talk through the overall storyline and supporting data with a colleague. It's easier to make amendments while still drafting on paper rather than adjusting words on a slide.


6. Use slide templates for efficiency

Consultants often reuse the same slide formats repeatedly. You can save a lot of time by reusing and adjusting previous slides instead of creating them from scratch. Additionally, different types of projects (e.g., creating a business strategy or a business case) often follow the exact same storyline and framework, allowing you to copy-paste whole sections if you have the right slide template.


7. Insert your content and data

This step is mostly about execution. Keep it concise and eliminate unnecessary words.


8. Final touches

Ensure elements are properly aligned, the spacing looks balanced, and add a bit of vibrancy with some color and icons. With the right knowledge, it's easy to make slides look attractive (See this post: 'How McKinsey Consultants Make Presentations' for a detailed list of formatting tips).


So there you have it! I hope you take away at least one or two things to make your slide-making process and little less painful and a bit more engaging and memorable to your audience.