How (Not) to Present with PowerPoint

You know, I’ve seen some terrible PowerPoint presentions in my time.  You’ve probably seen lots of poor presentations as well – in fact the vast majority of business people probably have.

So why is it that with so much experience of bad PowerPoint presentations so many people still present as if they are there simply to run through someone elses badly composed PowerPoint slides?

Might it be that having seen so many bad presentations, many just think that these “terrible presentations” are simply a fact of business life and something that presenters are expected to produce and the rest of us endure!

Anyway, I dont have all the answers and it’s now late on Friday night – it’s been a long week … so a more light hearted look at PowerPoint is called for.

“Good Evening PowerPointers”

I said Good Evening PowerPointers!

(a response at last)

Thank You … at least you’re not all fully asleep yet

Dont worry …

You will be by the end because its now PowerPoint time!

Welcome to The PowerPoint Comedy Show

Firstly, my thanks to Max Atkinson for pointing out this YouTube video to me on his blog.  (I was looking for some video examples of bad PowerPoint.)

Thanks also to the Presenter / Comedian – Don McMillan (http://twitter.com/donmcmillan) for what is certainly one of the most entertaining presentations using PowerPoint badly that I have seen!

And here’s some of the points that Don was making …

1. Powerpoint slides are your prompts

When composing your powerpoint slides, remember that they are there for your benefit only.  Forget about the audience.

The PowerPoint slides are great prompts for what you have to say, so include as much of your presentation text as you want on them.  In fact, if you have any difficulty remembering what you want to say, then put every word of your speech on them – just to be on the safe side. That way, you can ensure that you wont forget anything on the day!

2. Have lots and lots of bullet points

  • Bullet
  • points
  • are
  • there
  • for
  • a
  • purpose

- so use them and use lots of them especially if you want to kill off your audience before they can ask any questions!

3. Use the most outrageous colour schemes

Dont be grey add some real colour especially

those that can hardly be seen.

Its much better that way!

4. The more slides the better

Remember quality is inversly proportional to quantity.

So if you’ve nothing of any quality to say just make sure you use as many slides as possible.

5. Cram in as much information as possible

Confuse them … leave nothing out … and make sure that nobody (even yourself) can really understand the slides.

That way nobody is going to be stupid enough to ask you any questions … are they!

6. Animate everything you can

PowerPoint has lots of crazy animations that you can use to confuse your audience even more – so remember to use them.

And dont use them sparingly!

7. Choose your fonts to reflect your personality

Remember the types of fonts you use say a lot about you.

So express yourself liberally – use as many different fonts as possible!

Suffering from PowerPoint fatigue by now?

You should be!

Then why not spend a few more minutes listening to Doctor Don our PowerPoint therapist?

One final PowerPoint

Remember to tell the audience that you’ve finished

When you come to the end of your presentation and are just about to put up your 100th slide, your audience (if they are still in the room) are probably asleep.

So you need to be kind to them. And from a health and safety perspective its very important that you dont just leave the room with the audience still asleep in the darkness.

So turn up the volume as far as it will go for your final slide transition.  And remember to use the machine gun letter by letter display feature for your final bullet point .. to tell everybody that The End Has Arrived.  And if that doesn’t wake all of them up nothing will.

Then remember to put on the lights and leave quickly.

Got more examples of PowerPoint Comedy?

or just bad PowerPoint Presentations?

Then let us know in the Reply box below and I’ll try and include the best in some future articles.

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20 Responses to “How (Not) to Present with PowerPoint”



  • Todd I. Stark:

    This is a wonderful site, thanks for setting it up. Just two thoughts upon hearing Don’s presentation:

    1. I found the comedy routine style very distracting from the points he was making. I certainly like the humor in it, but the audience reactions, blitzkrieg pacing, etc., seems to discourage thinking about what he is saying. I think that’s a negative for meaningful presentations. In business, we aren’t propagandists, we don’t just want people to enjoy the show and mindlessly take action on an emotional high, we also want them to think more deeply about the content. I got some value from Don’s routine in spite of its style more than because of it. The exaggerated examples were the best part for me.

    2. The point about not cramming data into slides is only half right. The art to presenting evidence is to get as much data as possible to reveal the real complexity of the situation, in as simple a single visuallization as possible. Just throwing crap into a slide of course makes it incomrehensible. But putting real thought into an appropriate (even if dense) data graphic is the most powerful thing we can do to help our audience understand a complex problem better and think about it more effectively. Of course that assumes technical presentations to engineers, scientists, risk mitigators, or business problem solvers, which is usually what I most care about.

    I’m enjoying the site, thanks again!

    Thanks!



  • presentation-skills.biz:

    Thanks for your comments Todd. I take your point , but I think its probably best to accept that the comedy routine on PowerPoint is just that – a comedy routine. It wasn’t a business presentation. I also agree that the exaggerated examples were excellent.

    The key point I think with visuals is to ensure that they support your message and help you achieve whatever you want to get out of the presentation. If they are too detailed or complex and the audience cant understand them we fail. Sometimes its fairly easy to create highly effective visuals which achieve that purpose. Other times as you point out it can take a lot of creative thought to produce visuals in highly technical presentations that are fit for purpose.

    All the best and look forward to hear from you again.



  • Bill:

    Hi Todd

    PowerPoint is not the best medium for presenting a mass of very technical data. Paper is, especially if the subject is mission critical

    An example of this is the ill-fated Challenger voyage that burned on re-entry. Engineers presented their reports as powerpoint slides instead of formal reports, causing vague unresolved issues. This is an interesting account. http://y.az.sl.pt

    Cheers
    Bill



  • Jane Jude:

    Enjoying your site . . . a small correction: Challenger burned up shortly after lift-off. The engineers at Morton Thiokol who were concerned about O-ring safety in a cold weather launch faxed charts and tables to NASA. We can’t blame this one on PowerPoint, but we can all strive to avoid making the same mistakes. An excerpt from Dr. Edward Tufte’s splendid book, Visual Explanations is at:
    http://www.asktog.com/books/challengerExerpt.html



  • John Feeney:

    Comedy has it’s value, if the audience can remember the point. Nice lunch time break, thanks.



  • pierre:

    Thanks for your comments Todd. I think its probably best to make sure visuals support the message. Thank you. I look forward to hear from you again.



  • Frank S. Adamo:

    Todd, I disagree with you, at least partly, on both points. First, you said, in the last sentence of point 1, “The exaggerated examples were the best part for me.” That was the entire purpose of the video. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the video (I’ve watched it multiple times) because Don’s examples are not really exaggerated examples for many presenters. Unfortunately, these are real examples for many. You listed the points that Don was making. Au contraire, the points you listed were exactly what we should NOT be doing.

    In point 2, you said, “The art to presenting evidence is to get as much data as possible to reveal the real complexity of the situation, in as simple a single visuallization as possible.”

    With due respect, I really have to disagree with this. Technical professionals do this all the time. I know, having an M.S. degree in analytical chemistry and 20 years in the computer industry, I’ve seen many over-burdening charts and slides. The presentations may be technically enriching, but poorly and boringly delivered. As Bill pointed out, the papers are the place for all the details, charts, and other supporting data. The presentation should highlight the benefits of the research, etc., not to deliver all the complicated details of a research project, etc.

    I do hope you reconsider Don’s video and realize that the entire presentation was a satire of INeffective presentations.

    The very best to you.

    Frank



  • Steve Sipress:

    This video is great. It shows exactly what one sees at most PowerPoint presentations. I wish more could see.



  • Michele:

    I often present to group such as engineers, and I find that these are very visual people; I started out with PowerPoint – mindful of Don’s video of course – which was marginally successful; and now I’m back to butcher’s paper and flip charts!

    This simple aid allows me to talk them through the diagrams step by step with a much higher recal factor.

    I could think of nothing worse than going into these situations with a PowerPoint presentations crammed with info. I believe less is best, and the equipment should never replace the presenter



  • Laura Christianson:

    I laughed out loud (multiple times) during this video – thanks for sharing it. I’m embedding it on my own blog Monday. Perfect timing, too, as I’m finalizing six PowerPoint presentations for a conference I’ll be teaching at next week.

    Over the years (and through making many PowerPoint bloopers myself), I’ve learned that “less is more.” I try to accompany an hour-long presentation with five slides (10 max), all of which feature large images and very little type. Images really resonate with my audience, especially if I key in on a visual that helps them remember my spoken content. So far, it seems to be working.

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