Death by Powerpoint

, Microsoft’s ubiquitous presentation program, is so widely used today the term ‘PowerPoint’ has become synonymous with presentation on a screen. I know when I’m sitting in church or at work, I often tune out of the presentation on screen because it is so often overkill, sometimes badly done, and many–most–times not really necessary.

The exception to this was recently when Melinda Cousins spoke at our church about Ruth and used powerful images in black-and-white as a visual enhancement to her message. The great thing about that particular presentation was the the images spoke so much more than Melinda put into words and I’m sure everyone went away with a much richer, fuller, and deeper understanding because of what was shown on screen.

But, sadly, this type of presentation is the exception.

Big Mistakes pervade the PowerPoint world:

  • Low-res graphics pulled from the internet, resized so the perspective is skewed
  • Really awful colour combinations of background and text (red on pink, for example) which may look OK on a small screen (in the broadest possible sense) but blend so nicely on the extra-large wall-sized church-front version.
  • Gaudy frames which might look OK on a family’s cheesy vacation photo page but do nothing to a professional presentation
  • A different slide transition every slide (which causes you to spend more effort wondering whether the next slide will appear spiralling, fading, sliding, dropping or spinning rather than focus your attention on the actual message of the presentation)

What’s even more disturbing is that we can be assured that those who use these types of presentations have probably spent more time on the presentation than the actual content of their speech.

I really appreciate the late Steve Jobs‘ point of view as detailed in the recent bestselling biography:

He also enlisted a friend, Phil Schiller, who had worked at Apple but was then at the graphics software company Macromedia. “Steve would summon the teams into the boardroom, which seats twenty, and they would come with thirty people and try to show PowerPoints, which Steve didn’t want to see,” Schiller recalled. One of the first things Jobs did during the product review process was ban PowerPoints. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs later recalled. “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

I agree with that on so many levels!

Here are a few tips I would give:

  • KNOW your material so well that YOU actually don’t need the PowerPoint.
  • USE PowerPoint, if you must, as an enhancement to what you say, not simply to show what you are saying. Maybe you can use the images on screen to say something beyond what your words will convey.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t go for fantastic colour schemes, multiple transitions and effects, or music blaring in the background.
  • KEEP IT CONSISTENT. Keep to one of two font styles, keep the text size similar, use only a handful of well-chosen colours, and use the same transition throughout all the slides.

If you must use PowerPoint, use it well. It has the potential to add so much to a presentation.

Otherwise, it can be such a distraction that people will listen with their eyes so much that they won’t hear what you’re saying.


One thought on “Death by Powerpoint

  1. Pingback: 1,000 words… | STEP

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