Creating professional-level PowerPoint slides is an essential skill for Japanese managers communicating with their “global team”. Unfortunately, this is often done poorly due to a lack of English proficiency, training, or insight into how to do this well. Here are (5) points Japanese professionals need to remember when creating PowerPoint slides for a western audience:
1. Organize your ideas!
Great PowerPoint slides start first with a clear goal and great preparation. Many presentations fail simply because the presenter had not established the goal. Know your audience and what kind of information they are looking for. Know the goal of your presentation, what you want to achieve, and tailor your slides to meet this. Include only the main ideas and choose a flow structure to create smooth transitions and a clear message.
2. Write “Bullets” not sentences!
Bullets are short- “newspaper headline style” summaries of key information. They allow the audience to understand the main idea quickly without spending the whole time reading long sentences. If they are reading, they aren’t listening to you! Japanese business communication can tend to be “indirect” for reasons of politeness, grammar or style. This is a barrier to communication. From a western perspective, it also suggests indecisiveness or lack of information on the part of the presenter. Be direct! Identify the main noun in the sentence and eliminate small words such as (in, at, on, for). “We have over 20 locations in Japan” should read “Over 20 Locations” in bullet form.
3. Documents are not powerpoint slides!
We’ve all seen presentations where the presenter simply cuts and pastes an Excel file into a PowerPoint slide. This is called “Data Dump”. There is often way too much data for the audience to absorb. This is a misunderstanding of the purpose or power point slides. PowerPoint slides should support the message of the speaker, not overwhelm the audience. Detailed documents can be handed out at the end of the presentation.
4. Style matters!
Western audiences expect a certain amount of style. An “all text” PowerPoint presentation will be met with yawns and perceived as lazy. Do use professional quality photos, organize information in interesting ways, use color appropriately, and avoid animation. Design and style should complement the content of your presentation, not distract from it. Less is more, your audience will thank you.
5. Error Free!
Easily fixed spelling errors may be acceptable to a Japanese manager who understands the difficulty of using a second language in business contexts, but will these mistakes be acceptable to your head office in Germany? Western audiences expect professionalism and this includes both small errors and large. Be careful with word choice, a dictionary will often give you business vocabulary that is not entirely appropriate for the unique context you are describing. This causes confusion and distracts from the power of your ideas. Spell check, ask a native colleague to check the language used, and write carefully choosing the best word for each situation.