Cramming too much crap into PowerPoint isn’t handholding, it’s assault

Last week at work, I was asked for my opinion about a deck-in-progress for a meeting. My coworker was pretty sure she knew what my answer was going to be — it is generally a variation on the theme of delete that. My hatred of PowerPoint is well-known: I think it is where ideas go to be tortured.

But say you’ve got a presentation to do… how do you not be evil? Keep these four things in mind, and nobody gets hurt:

PowerPoint doesn’t have feet, so no deck is ever going to stand on its own

Reading the Cliffs Notes is not just as good as reading the book. If you just get the deck, and not the speaker or the recorded audio or video, you don’t get it all. Pretending otherwise is inefficient and frustrating for everyone involved. Slides are part of a presentation, not the whole thing. Get over it.

Nobody likes a fork in the eye

Ask yourself, would I look at this image if it weren’t in my presentation? If the answer is no, then take it out, because we don’t want to see it either. You do not need an oafish cartoon to “liven up” your slide. If you are using a starburst shape and you are not using BAM! POW! in the way the old Batman show did, just stop it. If you think your slide is boring without these cheesy gimmicks, redo it or delete it. If you think it is the fastest or most entertaining way of delivering your message, great! The good stuff is the only stuff that should be on your slide.

Your age should be your smallest font size

Don’t you wince when you see a slab of text on your screen? If folks in the back of the room can’t read it, it’s too small. If you have more than two complete sentences on one slide, you’ve probably written too much. If you have that much to say, tell me the story, don’t bullet point it and me to death. (If you are wondering how you can fit more than a handful of words on a screen if you are over fifty — you probably can’t, and you probably shouldn’t. You’ve got the experience, so share your wisdom and your vision, not your need for bifocals.)

Ideas matter, decks don’t

Say no to fighting with company-wide templates (especially for internal presentations. We all know where we work, ok?) and other foolishness concerning the way things are supposed to get done. Instead, start off with a pen, paper, and your ideas. Outline what you want to say: think of the key points you need people to grasp, and ask yourself what the story you want to tell really is. Then think of the best way to relay that information. Can PowerPoint help you carry your message, or is that just the expectation? What would happen if, before your next big meeting when you were asked for the deck, you said “there is no deck”? Your ideas deserve better than the rote use of slideware.

IF YOU WANT MORE here are a few classics on the wrongs of PowerPoint:

3 thoughts on “Cramming too much crap into PowerPoint isn’t handholding, it’s assault

  1. Great post! It’s the last point you make that is the most critical and the one that gets forgotten the most. For me, the majority of presentations I do, I don’t feel like I have a ton of time to do, so I dive right in and try to bang it out thinking that will be more time efficient. But, stepping back and clarifying my story on paper would probably make that whole process much easier!

  2. I AM GUILTY OF ASSAULT! :-( I’m sorry. And I agree. I your headlines… awesome and fun summaries!!!! I got a huge laugh over the starburst and “bam/pow”. Thanks!

    Here’s an add to consider… make point #1 apply to both authors/presenters and readers/audience! Being brief means that you don’t give the nuances, then you get assaulted by the readers/audience driving trucks through your theories and telling you you missed points that you really did consider, but for brevity didn’t include. This is likely the reason that most folks can’t “get over it”.

  3. Jana, at least you are sorry ;)

    I agree, fear of looking stupid is no doubt the underlying reason for so many crappy PowerPoint presentations. Speakers create a wall-of-text fort on their slides, so cranky audience members go on the attack… There has got to be a better way.

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