In The News: PowerPoint = Worthless


Swiss candidate Matthais Poehm and I agree on one thing: PowerPoint is worthless.  Information design, advertising, and marketing have changed the way people think about visual presentation, and creating a boring, death-by-PowerPoint slideshow will have your audience tuning you out in favor of their iPhones.

While I don’t agree with Poehm that PowerPoint should be abolished completely, I think public speakers and presenters can learn a lot from the Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds methods of visual presentation.  To learn more, visit their blogs.  Essentially, the ideas of Duarte and Reynolds are:

  • A PowerPoint with text-only and bullet points should instead be a document that you hand out to the audience.
  • Apply the picture superiority effect to your slides.  This principle explains that human beings are visual creatures, and we remember images as opposed to text.  If you want to create a slideshow that resonates, use clear, powerful images to connect with your audience.
  • Avoid 1980s clip art and selecting the first cheesy image that pops up when you are using a Google Image search.  Duarte says, “If you feel tempted to use a picture of two hands shaking in front of a globe […] think about taking a vacation.”
  • Consider all three elements of your slide: the image, the text, and the empty space (also known as blank space or negative space).  You should design a slide so that these three elements work together.
  • Billboards and other forms of advertising use glance media.  A slide should do the same thing; your audience should be able to glance at a slide and understand its meaning in a few seconds.  Since images connect and text does not, use phrases only when adding words to a slide.
  • Don’t use a premade template.  We live in a presentation generation, and if your audience can immediately identify your template by name, your presentation seems tired and boring.  Even though you haven’t even started speaking, you’ve already lost your audience.
  • Keep visuals simple.  Apply the theories of Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen.  Reynolds emphasizes simplicity, elegance, and restraint.
  • Guy Kawasaki talks about slideuments: “As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it. However, as soon as the audience figures out that you’re reading the text, it reads ahead of you because it can read faster than you can speak. The result is that you and the audience are out of synch.” Read more on Kawasaki’s blog.
  • If your slide contains more than 75 words, you’ve created a document.  While there’s nothing wrong with handing out a document, there IS something wrong with trying to pass this off as a visual presentation.  “Visuals” indicate images, graphs, charts, and video clips.  Duarte calls these “slideuments.”
Check out the blog of my slide mentor and visual presentation guru, Chiara Ojeda.  You can also see examples of visually-driven presentations that I’ve created on my blog.

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