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2012 and We're Still Getting PowerPoint Wrong

2012 and we’re STILL using PowerPoint Wrong

It’s 2012 the age of digital. Information is now more freely available than ever before. Even now, we’re STILL using PowerPoint wrong.

Carmine Gallo, who is one of my presentation and business communication heroes, sort of beat me to the punch with this article.  But I’m not one to take a challenge lying down when I see it, so here’s my take on it.

Microsoft PowerPoint™ really gets a bad rap – most of the time. You will have probably heard the synchronous statement ‘Death by PowerPoint’ mentioned whenever you’ve had to endure an awful presentation or keynote. It’s not exactly PowerPoint’s fault that so many people are getting it wrong. For those of us who have suffered through a boring presentation, the responsibility rests solely with the presenter.

For decades now the average presenter has been taught to stuff their slides with tonnes of information, boredom inducing bullet point after bullet point. Shouldn’t it be obvious to most people that not all Microsoft’s Office software shouldn’t be treated the same?

Surprisingly, when it comes to PowerPoint™ some mysterious force takes control and changes all that. It quickly becomes no different from a Word document, with only minimally less information.

In the Good Old Days Slides Told a Story

Do you remember those old carousel style slide projectors?

These were commonplace in the 1950s to the 1970s as a form of entertainment. Families would gather round them and share vacations memories as in-home photographic slides.

With each slide, each picture told a story.  The ‘presenter’ could craft the perfect story around their holiday snaps. The visual element of the slides allowed the audience (family members) to be transported back to the moment of the picture as the spoken word crafted an engaging story.

Today, inexpensive digital cameras, sharing photos on TV screens or an iPad for example, have replaced these.

Something happened after the death of the beloved slide projectors. People forgot that images could be far stronger than words.  We’ve forgotten to tell stories when we present.

We’ve learned to overload people with information. Regurgitating everything we know about a subject into one single PowerPoint™ presentation.

If we forced everyone to design his or her presentation like slides used in a 1970s slide projector, suddenly we’d see a sharp drop of the dreaded Death By PowerPoint™ occurring.

Enter the Age of Slide Stuffing

Why do people do it? I didn’t attend your presentation to read, yet here I am, and you’re forcing me to read.

If you are just going to read out the words that you’ve added to some slides, why not save me the bother and give me a printout. Do away with the presentation.

stuffing slides is bad mmmkay

People stuff slides out of necessity, out of laziness and generally out of fear.

Someone recently told me that you can’t present a visual, design led presentation at a boardroom level, they expect bullet points, and that is what they want. That statement is beyond wrong.

The norm is a dull PowerPoint™ presentation. It is the expected standard. Would it be such a shock to the system actually to go against the norm?

You could easily rectify this by: 

  • Dropping the bullet points
  • Using Images instead
  • Crafting an Interesting Story
  • Preparing early to prevent Death by PowerPoint
  • Having No More Than 3 Key Themes per Presentation

Let’s Start Teaching Presentation Skills

Better presentation teaching in academic institutions (starting from an early age) would help to avoid this negative ‘habit’ occurring as widespread as it does.

Bad presentations cost the business world millions. Being able to communicate your ideas visually across is important.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”  ~ Lee Iacocca

lee iacocca quote slide

Every time you stuff your slides with tons of text and bullet points what you’re not doing is getting your thoughts across clearly.

Let’s not stand for bad presentations anymore. If you see someone go against the norm and present visually led slides, acknowledge them with some praise.

Let’s give people the skills and education they need to present clearly and efficiently. If you’re running any conference or workshop, reject presenter’s slides on the basis they contain too much text and information.

Maybe together this way we can change the world for the better and save many lives from the dreaded Death by PowerPoint™. PowerPoint™ is not Microsoft Word, it is an excellent design tool. Start creating, and stop stuffing.

Illiya Vjestica About the author

Illiya is Creative Director at The Presentation Designer and has designed presentations for many of the world's most well know brands including Sony, Ralph Lauren & PayPal. He's passionate about improving the world one presentation slide at a time.