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Homicide By Powerpoint

Just saw the story in the paper about that guy who was so depressed he checked into a room at the Chateau Marmont and watched agency Powerpoint presentations until he died of narco-boredom-induced coma brain-death. Dude must’ve been at the end of his rope.

I’m of the opinion that 99% of all Powerpoint presentations suck. (Perhaps you’ve seen my Powerpoint presentation about this on Slideshare.)

Right now I am reading a book called Presentation Zen and it’s pretty good. It’s one of those books you can kinda read standing there in the aisle of the bookstore. Because the main message is summed up in the title of one of its chapters: “Simplicity: Why It Matters.”

That is the sum and substance of it, folks. Simplicity. And the reason almost all Powerpoint presentations suck is because their authors pack way too much into the slides and make their audiences read their speech. The thing is, the audience came to hear a speech, not to read a big white book up on the wall.

Seems to me the reason most presenters pack too much into each slide is because they use their slides as a crutch. They use the words on the screen as prompts to remind them of the speech they should have tattooed into their skulls. It’s tough, I know, to get that much in your head, but that’s what rehearsals are for.

See, the thing is this: two bad things happen when a speaker cedes control of their presentation to a screen. They lose their audience (people are watching the screen) and they lose passion (because they’re reading, not speaking from the heart).

To see what Powerpoint does to the passion and power of true oratory, I refer you to an oldie-but-goodie online: Prof. Peter Norvig’s famous parody: The Gettysburg Address As Powerpoint.

Does Powerpoint always have to suck? No. When good speakers use Powerpoint it serves to amplify their presentation, not replace it. Steven Jobs uses it quite well (of course, he uses Apple’s Keynote) and his speeches are the subject of another pretty good book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Again, the main message is SIMPLICITY. Perhaps one good way to think of your slides is this: if your speech is the product, your slides are the outdoor boards. Big, simple, graphic, on-message, and on-brand.

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