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Don’t Blame PowerPoint For a Poor Presentation

Posted in Marketing Tips

After seeing a post more than a year ago on Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog contrasting the slide presentation styles of Steve Jobs (less is more) and Bill Gates (more is — well, some would say less effective), I have seen a number of articles that seem to blame PowerPoint for some awful presentations.

Mike McLaughlin, in the December issue of his "The Guerilla Consultant" newsletter, has an article  entitled “If Lincoln Had a Laptop”  where he says that he too has encountered “…diatribe(s) on the evils of Microsoft’s PowerPoint.” He cites “graphic design guru, Edward Tufte” as one who has wagged his finger at the program and blames it for corrupting “serious communication.”

Whoa, now folks. This sounds like blaming the tool because people misuse it. Mike concurs, and says that “[w]hat really matters is the speaker’s insights, preparation, and delivery.”  I agree. In his article Mike refers to a PowerPoint presentation of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which is awful, and painful to read through. His point is that even a great speech can be ruined by a poor presentation.

But don’t blame PowerPoint. And, at the same time, don’t jump into the program to develop your talk. Rather, follow Mike’s advice:

  • Develop a “compelling, well-articulated, and relevant core message,” first,
  • Design your speech for the audience’s enlightenment,
  • Practice your speech, before designing your slides,
  • Connect with your audience by “telling stories,”
  • Don’t have too many facts, conclusions and recommendations,
  • Use props, where appropriate, not just PowerPoint, and
  • Be prepared, so you are not apologizing for fumbling around with the equipment.

As he says, we shouldn’t be indicting a piece of software for “the (poor) quality of what we deliver from the front of the room.”

Good (power) point!

  • http://www.DJosephDesign.com DJosephDesign

    While it’s certainly true that “PowerPoint” can’t be blamed for a bad presentation, I think that it does still bare some responsibility for ineffective visual presentations. I say this because before PowerPoint 2007, all versions had terribly designed (or not) templates that were stuck in the 1980s. No innovation, no engagement, no visual appeal.
    The reason people marvel so much over presentations with Apple Keynote is that Keynote comes with professionally designed templates that instantly give a presentation a face-lift, and encourage breaking up and reducing information. Pre-2007 PowerPoint, however, starts with cheap templates, small text, and bad presentation techniques.
    BUT! This is still no excuse for a presenter. I’m a presentation designer for an organization with many speakers. It’s been tough to help them see the need for design within their presentations, but a couple have “picked up the ball” and started scrapping PowerPoint’s included templates and attempting to create their own.
    I think the key to this, as McLaughlin, is that the visual presentation software is a prop. And no good presentation focuses on the prop, but uses it as illustration or reinforcement.