Presentations: Using PowerPoint in Science Marketing and Communications

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Presentations: Using PowerPoint in Science Marketing and Communications

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Whether you use slide shows to support your sales pitches, make powerpoint for science at industry events, or lead quarterly business review meetings with your team, they are one of the most linear ways to communicate about your life sciences company. This is what makes powerpoint for science ideal for telling stories that follow the traditional ‘story arc’ — a beginning that presents the hero and the challenge; a middle that follows the hero as he or she faces a series of obstacles in the quest to overcome the challenge; and an ending or resolution in which the hero overcomes the challenge.
Using stories in your powerpoint for science can make your company’s message more memorable, persuasive, and interesting — all qualities that will help make your powerpoint for science successful. As your story unfolds, one slide at a time, your audience’s attention stays right there with you — unlike written stories or case studies.

Once Upon a Time

Let’s examine storytelling in powerpoint for science by telling a story.

Alex, a customer experience manager for Advanxia, a small life sciences company, was preparing for a meeting with Bella, Brook, and Braxton, a group of decision-makers at Biologian, one of his company’s most important customers.

He wanted to convince them to adopt Advanxia’s new inventory management system and integrate it into their supply chain operations. This would automate and simplify the product ordering process, saving them time and money.

But he wasn’t sure how to go about it. Should he create a presentation?

He took stock of the resources he had to work with.

First, he had good data showing the potential cost savings projected by month, quarter, and year.

In addition, he had a lot of compelling facts about the products. These customers did not need to be sold on the products. Because he knew his customers — a very shrewd group — would have a lot of questions, he needed to be prepared with answers.

How Storytelling Aligns Brain Activity

In a 2016 TED Talk, neuroscientist Uri Hasson shared his research on the neurological basis of storytelling. He found that listening to the same  story ‘aligns’ our brains because of a neural mechanism that enables us to share knowledge. “We can communicate because we have a common code that presents meaning,” Hasson says. He suggested that storytelling can align the brain activity of two separate individuals to function in the way they react to the story. When you tell a story as part of your presentation, it generates alignment among the people in your audience—a powerful communication outcome.

But Where to Begin?

After some careful thought, he decided to tell the story of another customer who had recently adopted the inventory management system. Of course, he genericized the story to protect his customer’s identity.

Alex approached the presentation very much like a case study. When told in presentation form, of course, the audience wouldn’t be able to skip to the ending or be distracted by other details.

These are the elements he used for building the story:

  • Beginning: Alex introduced the main character, Carter, an executive at Cellulara. Carter is the hero, or protagonist, of this story. Alex set the stage by providing a quick overview of Cellulara, including key facts such as size, location, market share, annual sales, and USP. He described the challenges facing Carter and Cellulara, including: rising warehousing costs, supply chain disruptions, difficulty predicting purchasing patterns and retaining skilled workers for inventory management, and the growing effort needed to meet their customers’ unpredictable demand for products.
  • Middle: Alex introduced the element of tension into the tale through his narrative. He related the story of how he and Carter worked with members of both the Advanxia team and the Cellulara team to tackle a series of obstacles they encountered. These included:
    • Gathering and comparing current data with projected sales numbers, rising costs, and earnings — a process that took a lot of time and effort from both teams.
    • Developing new workflows and processes to support the integration.
    • Talking with each member of the team, and their people, to test out different scenarios and determine which ones would work best.
  • Resolution: He recounted how they arrived at the optimal solution for Cellulara, how they integrated the new software, and the results achieved to date.
powerpoint for science
All good stories have a narrative arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end. In fictional stories, this arc contains slightly different elements than a business-focused story, but they both have heroes, inciting incidents, challenges, interest-generating action, climactic moments, the realization of success (or failure), and a denouement — the outcome, or results, of a sequence of events.

By telling this story, he hoped to persuade Bella, Brook, and Braxton that Advanxia could provide value-added support that would help Biologian make the transition to the new system. He wanted to show them, rather than tell them, that by working together they would all benefit from the cost savings and more streamlined processes.

And it worked! Alex made his presentation, and by the end of the meeting, his Biologian customers had agreed to begin the process of developing an inventory management solution. He had successfully brought about a happy ending through the power of storytelling.

powerpoint for science

Show Me the Data!

A few tips for creating your slides:

  • Although you’ll be telling your story verbally, it’s important to have professional-looking, visually appealing slides to back up your story. This is where your data comes in. It can serve to increase the tension in the story you’re telling. Be careful not to overload your audience with too much data. Less is more, as they say, so focus on key data points.
  • You’ll want to make the most of your PowerPoint ‘real estate,’ but you also need to keep it simple. Experts suggest using one slide per minute of your presentation. If your presentation is 10 minutes long, you should try to use no more than 10 slides.
  • Your slides form the ‘backbone’ of your presentation, so they need to be aligned with your brand identity and brand message. Don’t forget to check your slides for spelling and grammar.
powerpoint for science

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Additional Reading

For more ideas on ways to better support your story through your slide deck, take a look at this Cobalt blog post, “How to Pimp and Improve PowerPoint,” for a thoughtful discussion of ways to make your presentations more audience-friendly and engaging.

Learn how Cobalt redesigned West Pharmaceutical Services’ PowerPoint template in this success story.

Read the other blog posts in the Science Storytelling series:

Connect with us to learn more

To learn more about using storytelling in science marketing for your science-focused business and how Cobalt helps science-focused companies with all aspects of communications, visit the Cobalt services page or contact the Cobalt team.

Sign up for our monthly Bolt from the Blue Newsletter to stay up to date with Cobalt blogs and other news.

As a strategic communications agency serving science- and R&D-driven organizations, we specialize in highly technical markets where complex ideas and information must be conveyed with clarity. Our team includes writers, designers, strategists and content architects, all working together to help you reach — and engage — your internal and external audiences.

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How to Pimp Your PowerPoint: Practical strategies to create audience-friendly presentations.

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