Watched a marketing rah-rah session the other day. Of course, the ubiquitous PowerPoint was front and center, running the show. When it becomes obvious that the content will be driven entirely by what’s on the screen, the presenter loses the ability to connect with the audience. This presentation did that, in spades. In addition to just boring slides with hardly anything noteworthy (or even probably not already known by the audience), this particular setup had the speaker off to the side almost in the shadows while a two-story screen was supposed to capture the attention and hearts of those in attendance. They failed.If the PowerPoint is The Show, then at least make it a) readable, and b) somewhat interesting. This presentation was neither. Starting with readable, the first slide that actually had content on it had what appeared to be an Excel table pasted into the slide. Which is not in and of itself a bad thing, except this particular Excel table was probably unreadable in Excel, and even moreso in PowerPoint. It had thirty-one (31!) lines of information, and I’d estimate the font size to be less than 12 point. Even on a two-story screen, this rendered the content unreadable. And tabular data is great for the bean counters, but when presenting data, draw conclusions for the audience. This 31-line data dump didn’t have a bold word, colored highlight, graphic, or arrow in sight. I still am at a loss as to what I was supposed to take away, and after the third number, it was all a blur. Purge unnecessary data and highlight the pertinent facts.Then there was the “highlights” reel. This is a technique often employed by supervisors to help folks realize their contribution is noticed. Evidently a key element of this technique is leaving anybody or anything of even marginal importance out. This highlight sequence had 22 highlights across 5 slides. Not even ESPN puts 22 highlights into a snippet. Even the name implies something should be high — you can’t have highlights if everything is mentiond. That is just an inventory. And when everyone is listed, folks listen for their 30-seconds of fame and tune out. Again, no implications or mention to the audience of what conclusions should be drawn, just bullet point after wordy bullet point of droning regurgitance (I think I just invented a word, but I really like it. Perhaps it should be spelled regurgitence instead?).I don’t know when corporate America will get the memo, but PowerPoint is NOT the presentation. The presenter is the presentation. I’ve yet to hear anyone ask PowerPoint to speak. Used correctly, PowerPoint can be a great addition to a presentation, but when it uses common and poor techniques, it does more damage than good.
Use slides to help get a point across; summarize data to make it easy for an audience to get the point; and by all means make the slides readable (but PLEASE don’t read them!).