Using Presentation Structure to Create Effective Sales Presentations

Leveraging Microsoft PowerPoint's New Sections Capability.

“BE STRUCTURED. For your presentation to succeed, it must take the audience down the path of your logic in clear, easy to follow steps”. The McKinsey Way.

By Sandra Johnson

Corporate Rooftops

Shortly after I landed my first marketing communications job at a world-leading component manufacturer for the disk drive industry, I was assigned the task of commissioning an aerial photo of our corporate headquarters to feature on our marketing materials. While I was new to the business world, I was not so naïve as to not question the significance of a manufacturing roof top and how that might convince the IBMs and Seagates to purchase our product.

In the more than 20 years that have elapsed since my entrée into business, there have been big changes in marketing communications. New channels like the Internet and powerful tools like Microsoft Office PowerPoint have expanded the opportunities for far-reaching and cost-effective communications.

Today anyone can create a presentation – often times using nicely designed PowerPoint templates from corporate marketing departments. But when it comes to how presenters use this tool to tell their sales story, their content is often not appropriate for their audience. Nor does that content flow in such a way that creates relevant, thought-provoking, and compelling stories for their audiences.

Presenters still use corporate rooftops to sell their product.

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PowerPoint 2010 Makes it Easy to Structure a Logical Flow for Presentations

Without structure, all the great things you can do with a PowerPoint presentation will get you nowhere. The structure of a presentation can mean the difference between success and failure – a deal or no deal – in the sales environment. By using Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010’s Sections capability, companies can provide guidance, within the program itself, encouraging their sales teams to create custom presentations that connect with and compel their audiences. See Image One.

create Sections in presentations

PowerPoint 2010 offers the ability to create Sections in presentations. Corporations that wish to “control” their employees’ presentations beyond graphic design can set up Sections to suggest presentation flow and delivery. This tool encourages custom content that can make a presentation more relevant to its audience.

Image One

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Creating Sections

1.Add a Section

Click the slide thumbnail where you want to begin a new section. Under the Home tab, Slides category, click the Section drop down menu > Add Section. An Untitled Section name header will appear in the Navigation Pane on the right.

Add a Section

Image Two

2.Name a Section

Right click on Untitled Section section header. Select Rename Section.

Name a Section

Image Three

3.Section Sequencing

Other than naming each section, the sequence that you choose may be the most important step you can take in preparing your sales presentation. The Section names will help determine what content – which should be different for each event – needs to be researched and included in each presentation. Proper sequencing will help ensure that you’re not “selling rooftops.” Table One below provides suggestions for Section titles and sequencing for a sales presentation.

Notice that (in the table that follows) the focus of the presentation is on the audience. The first three Sections demonstrate an understanding of the audience’s “pain.” That makes it easier to position your company (Section IV) and products (Section V) as solutions that address that pain.

Section Number

Section Name

Results: Desired Audience Perception


Title Slide

“Hmmm, I’m interested. Looks like these people might be the answer to my problem. Let’ see if they are…”


Agenda Slide (also Section Divider Slides – see Sections III – VII)

“Now I know what to expect.”



Industry situation

Client pain

“They understand the day-to-day issues facing my industry and my business. These people ‘get it’.” Note: the audience is nodding in agreement.


The solution:

Approach / Philosophy

“They’re experts. They are positioned as a business to address my needs today and in the future.”


Product / Service

“This solves my problem.”



“This is what I’ll walk away from this meeting thinking about this person/org.”


Next Steps

“Let’s get started.”


Closing Slide

“You’re welcome. Let’s talk.”

Table One

Section One – Title Slide

This slide should reflect your company’s branding efforts. If you advertise, use direct mail, sales literature or public relations, your presentation will be strengthened by its synergy with other programs. And since we call it a title slide, make sure you use a title – one that tells the audience that you’re here to solve their problem(s).

SECTION ONE – Title Slide

Image Four. Slides can be created (or inserted from a slide library as shown here) within each predetermined Section.

Section Two – Agenda Slide

Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. This establishes the flow of the presentation. And since you’re using the flow we’re recommending here, that flow will allow you to better connect with your audience and compel them to take action. Sections III – VII (see Table One) provide perfect Agenda items and sales presentation flow.

Section Three – Background

We’re recommending three steps here:

  1. Insert a Section Divider Slide. This slide corresponds with item one in your Agenda. From a design perspective, it should not look exactly like your content slides. You’ll want it to stand out as something different so that your audience can cleanly transition from one Section to the next.

  2. Having done your homework on this audience, create slides that emphasize potential issues their industry might be facing. For example, if you’re pitching health insurance to a corporate employer, new stats on rising health care costs will be insightful and demonstrate your expertise.

  3. Show that you understand your audience’s (company’s) specific “pain” – that you know what keeps them up at night. A corporate HR department wants to know how they can provide health care benefits to its employees at a reduced cost.

SECTION FOUR - Approach / Philosophy

Now you can start talking about yourself. This section answers the “so what” of your presentation. “So, I see that you understand my situation, but what can you do for me?”

This is where you can demonstrate, philosophically, how much better your audience’s life will be with your solution. Graphics are particularly helpful here. For example, if you’ve identified their pain(s) as “Pain 1,” “Pain 2,” “Pain 3,” creating a graphic that aligns your business approach as a solution for each pain will answer the “so what.”

Case studies of past successes are a great way to bring this home.

SECTION FIVE – Products / Services

If this Section is first in your presentation (selling rooftops) you’ve probably already lost your audience. First, you will not have demonstrated your knowledge of the industry and your audience’s pain, second you would not have been able to demonstrate how successful you’ve been in the past. By waiting until now to talk about your products they can be positioned as “proof/support” of your capabilities rather than a list of “stuff.”


Now, tie everything you’ve just said together. This is your final opportunity to remind your audience of how your product/service will make their lives better. If there is one thought you’d like them to walk away with, this is your chance.


This is your call to action section. Make the proposed action measureable and accountable by assigning dates and leaders. A graphic timeline is very helpful here.

SECTION EIGHT – Closing Slide

The closing slide displays as you thank your audience for their time. People still like to write things down, so including your name and contact information here will be useful.

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Presentation structure is a vital step to creating and delivering presentations. Use PowerPoint 2010s Sections capability to create a structure to drive flow and content that connects with and compels your audience. Using Sections can help you avoid “selling rooftops.”

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About the Author

Sandra Johnson Sandra Johnson is a presentation strategist and designer with nearly 25 years Marketing Communications expertise. Sandra has been a recipient of the Microsoft Office PowerPoint MVP Award since 2008, which recognizes users around the world for their contributions to the PowerPoint technical community.

Sandra helps clients understand that they can leverage PowerPoint to be a powerful component of their marketing communication mix. Sandra Johnson brings marketing strategy, design expertise and expert PowerPoint skills to her clients' presentations.

Sandra Johnson strives to help businesses of the world to "PowerPoint Responsibly." People who work with Sandra understand that they can leverage PowerPoint to be a powerful component of their marketing communication mix. Since 2001, Sandy has brought marketing communications strategy, design expertise, and expert PowerPoint skills to her clients' presentations. You can learn more about Sandra and her work at

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