Our local newspaper ran a front page article today on the use of PowerPoint. Who knew that such skills were worthy of the #1 spot in the daily news? And with it’s opening paragraph leading the way:
Some of the world’s most satisfying naps, deepest daydreams and most elaborate notebook doodles are inspired by the following phrase:”I’ll just queue up this PowerPoint presentation. …“
Who can resist that sort of news? What great light this sheds on the role of the presenter! Sign me up for that! But the author clearly has sat through a presentation or two. And we are all guilty by association — the world is full of bad PowerPoint. So my question is: “What are you going to do about it?“While the article covers the local angle, gives examples, find quotes, and has a catchy beginning and end, it is missing one very important thing: what SHOULD PowerPoint include, and how can one make it better? Well, that’s probably why you are reading this, and I’m glad you asked.The online version of the article comes with links to two presentations that were referenced in said article — 11 and 39 megabyte files! Wow! 11 megabytes! What do we get for that amount of disk space? Two-color font displays overlaying pictures where the contrast is so weak we can’t read the text. A title bar with non-contrasting colors such that the reader cannot differentiate the title easily from the theme. And random pictures which — judging from the filesize — were not resized appropriately for the presentation.Surely 39MB must bring a new level in PowerPoint presentations… And? Font sizes dipping to 14 pt, as many as 9 bullets on a slide, gratuitous logos that offer no information, non aligned numbers, architectural drawings that are not legible, and inconsistent graph colors and styles, to name a few. Oh, and the slide (with non-contrasting background picture) that says END OF PRESENTATION is a real winner. Given the format and busy-ness of the slide deck, it could be moved up quite a few slides, because the audience was ready to sleep much earlier.Let’s review. Our job as a presenter is to get a message across. We have at our disposal any (legal) means of doing so. PowerPoint is a tool that can aid in this goal, but if it’s not adding to the message, we should question its inclusion — in PowerPoint or any other medium. Good, clear messages are supported by good, clear slides. In so many cases, all PowerPoint does is get in the way.The article quotes Rick Rocchetti: “Much less is more. There is an etiquette around it, and most people don’t get it.” Well said, Rick.Inconsistent elements, text that is unreadable, busy pictures with nothing highlighted, and distracting thematic elements only serve to distract or dillute the message, not add to it. Strive to make every slide clear and perfectly understandable. No list of 9 bullets fits that category, by the way. Colors should have high contrast to illuminate whatever it is color is trying to say; pictures should have a point, and help to sear that into the audience’s conscience.
Make every element of your presentation support the point(s) with clarity.
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