New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has received a lot of attention and praise for his daily Covid-19 updates. Every morning, Americans are also seeing the PowerPoint presentations that accompany his briefings.
Cuomo's updates provide a lesson in the effective use of PowerPoint: His presentation slides are simple, clear and instructive. Here are 3 effective PowerPoint skills you can learn from Cuomo's daily presentations.
1. Visualize big numbers
One of the best reasons to use PowerPoint is to engage visual learners by creating graphical visualizations of data. Cuomo begins every briefing with an update on the virus's spread, including the number of cases, hospitalizations, resources, etc. The barrage of numbers would be mind-numbing without a simple visual aid to add context.
For example, I recall a slide from one of Cuomo's presentations that explained the problem so clearly, I was able to tell others why New York City in particular was headed for a problem.
First, Cuomo said that New York had a total of 3,000 ICU beds and ventilators but would need 37,000 ICU beds when the number of cases reaches its peak. The next slide had a simple graphic: a cresting wave approaching a hospital building.
"The wave is going to crash into the hospital system," Cuomo said. "That, my friends, is the problem." One simple graphic. One big problem.
Cuomo also uses bar charts and pie charts effectively. The slides are uncluttered and he clearly explains the trend the charts are showing.
In any presentation that contains a lot of numbers, use simple graphics to visualize the data.
2. Tell stories in pictures.
In addition to charts, graphs, and numbers, Cuomo is known for presentations that are "part briefing, part sermon, part inspirational talk," according to the Washington Post. "By the end, viewers at home are getting choked up."
Cuomo adds emotion to his presentations by showing photos of real people on the front lines of the war against the novel coronavirus.
On March 29, Cuomo showed two slides of medical responders who had lost their lives to Covid-19 disease. One was detective Cedric Dixon, a 23-year veteran of the New York City police department. The second photo showed Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse manager at Mount Sinai West in New York City.
By showing real photos, Cuomo put a face on the 76,000 medical responders who are on the front lines, acting out of "love and courage."
When done correctly, PowerPoint can be an effective tool to transfer emotion.
3. Reinforce key messages
Cuomo skillfully uses PowerPoint slides to reinforce his key messages. Watch him carefully: When he delivers a message that he wants people to remember and share, the sentence is the only text on the slide. He also expresses it word for word to deliver it in two forms--visual and verbal.
"This is just a mistake," Cuomo said on March 22 after visiting a park in New York City filled with people who were ignoring social distancing orders. Cuomo's PowerPoint slide showed a photo of the mass gathering with just one word across the top: "MISTAKE."
Steve Jobs would be proud. The Apple co-founder was known for presentation slides with minimal text, often using just one word to get his message across. Jobs used Apple Keynote software instead of Microsoft's PowerPoint, but the same techniques apply, regardless of which presentation tool you use.
On March 30, Cuomo appealed to a bipartisan effort to tackle the virus. His slide read: "There are no red states, and there are no blue states. There are no red casualties or blue casualties. Red, White and Blue."
Cuomo repeated the line and added, "This virus doesn't discriminate."
Within minutes, Reuters posted an article highlighting that quote. It was picked up by many other publications. Viewers shared the quote on social media and even included a screenshot of Cuomo's slide.
"There are no red states, and there are no blue states.-- Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) March 30, 2020
There are no red casualties or blue casualties.
It's red, white, and blue. This virus doesn't discriminate. It attacks everyone."
- Cuomo on those seeking to divide, invokes Trump saying it's a war. "Let's act that way." pic.twitter.com/sbuONNqsD6
The lesson here: Reinforce a key message by letting it stand alone on a slide.
PowerPoint has a bad reputation because it's poorly used. But PowerPoint is just a tool. In the right hands, it can enhance an important message.