I was recently reminded of a video by Andy Bounds (author and trainer) where he noted that whenever he asked his delegate groups what the end of my title sentence should be, overwhelmingly everyone now plumps for “Death by …. PowerPoint”
I found that very interesting. Why isn’t it “firing squad” anymore, or “chocolate”? Have we really reached such a nadir in our visual aids that this has become the Pavlovian response? Sadly, the answer is yes because we don’t seem to have come very far in the couple of decades that PowerPoint and similar visual aids have come into general use. Sadly, this has only got worse as we have transferred many of our talks to the virtual world.
It seems that we still insist, even in 2021, on putting great chunks of paragraph-length text on slides and then proceed to read directly from them (preferably in a monotone if we really want to kill what little online energy we may have garnered). There is an ongoing competition for how many dozens of slides we can produce without a single picture.
At least in the virtual world, we are saved from presenters graciously consenting to include a complex graphic, then uttering the memorable words “I know you can’t see this properly but …”
“Well why have you put it up there then?” would be the reasonable response of the long-suffering folk who are in attendance. As we slowly return to face-to-face public speaking, we should strain every sinew to ensure this aberration doesn’t creep back in again.
Seth Godin (American motivational speaker and blogger) issued an E-book around twenty years ago called ‘Really Bad PowerPoint’. He recently said he could realistically issue it again because “Nobody’s learned a damned thing”
- Use pictures as often as possible, preferably as a replacement for text rather than simply as a supplement.
- Keep necessary bullet points short and to the point, don’t mess around with fancy fonts or italics unless for purposeful emphasis
- Animate your slides so that each portion of text or graphic comes on screen on click and only when you are ready to talk about it.
- Use moving pictures – video clips, animated cartoons (where appropriate of course). Although don’t overegg the pudding, too much vim and vigour is often as bad as too little.
There are many more things you can do to bring life and interest to your slides but simply doing the four listed above should immeasurably improve the overall appearance and appeal of your next presentation. Then Seth can stop worrying about our lack of PowerPoint progress and I can fully explore the meaning of ‘Death by chocolate’!