Death by PowerPoint

By Kenny Nguyen, CEO of Big Fish Presentations, a high-octane design firm specializing in the art of the presentation.

The common PowerPoint presentation— how often we’ve sat in a crowded classroom or a stuffy library as we lose brain cells by the slide and we struggle to keep our eyelids open. I’m sure medical labs across the country are testing PowerPoint as an effective use in curing insomnia. But in all sincerity, the term “Death by PowerPoint” is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.

“Death by PowerPoint,” according to Wikipedia, is a “criticism of slide-based presentations referring to a state of boredom and fatigue induced by information overload during presentations such as those created by the Microsoft application PowerPoint.” This little sarcastic blog is a short introduction to help those who read and care about their presentations, and how companies overload their slides with junk instead of knowledge. Like all great presentations, PowerPoint should follow five simple guidelines.

  1. Tell a story. Picture yourself as Steve Jobs. Whether you’re an Apple or Microsoft fan, you cannot deny that Jobs is one of the best presenters in any industry. Bud Tribble called his method the “Reality Distortion Field”— Steve’s ability to get emotionally involved with an audience, utilizing his charisma and enthusiasm to sell a product, no matter how worthless it may be. Once he’s made that connection (or rapport), the audience is in the palm of his hand. Jobs could probably convince me an older model of the iPhone is worth US$300 because it’s an “antique.” Well, maybe.
  2. Cut the crap with hundreds of slide animations. A couple of bullet point entries is cute, and a couple of slide transitions is fine, but having them each slide? Unless you have a good, specific reason (such as, this is a PowerPoint purely on slide animations), then don’t do it. Think about it this way: Every animation or different transition dilutes the audience’s attention more and more and more and more (you get the drift). Keep animation to a minimum, and try not to use more than two or three different slide transitions.
  3.  Keep the text simple. Can you read this easily? How about this? See, the longer I use these ridiculous fonts, the more I lose an audience’s attention, and their respect. What’s even worse? When you read word for word on the PowerPoint presentation. What happens if I took that slide away from you? Would you even know what’s on it? Too many bullet points will always lose an audience. Slides with the least amount of text always do the best job.
  4. Use color wisely. Ouch. At least try to show them you care. Don’t give them a horrible color eyesore that makes everything look the same. Does this even look intelligible? By blending in colors properly, you can make text stand out and make your presentation appear more professional, unique and visually appealing.
  5. Charts and diagrams please! Personally, I find PowerPoint to be one of the best presentation tools to use graphs and charts. PowerPoint is a media-driven, visual tool— not a dissertation. PowerPoint already comes equipped with custom pie graphs and charts, with the rest being up to you.

By the end of this blog you should be able to grasp a little more information on how to use PowerPoint. If not, here are links to great presentations that you can use as references.

· Guy Kawasaki

· The Brand Gap

· Social Media Tools

· How to Make Big Things Happen with a Small Team by Jason Fried, 37 Signals

· A Storied Career (great for storytelling)

Please stop audience cruelty by using a trite, unprofessional PowerPoint presentation. They came to you for knowledge, yet you provide pain and boredom.

Categories: general


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