Death by PowerPoint

According to Microsoft estimates, over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are made each day. If you find that staggering… think about how many people have to sit through them! I’m sure at one point we’ve all fallen victim to an ill-conceived slideshow. As a designer, I am often called on to assist with presentations, ensuring Signature’s best face is put forward.

Signature has recently developed a Persuasive Presentation Skills™ Workshop to aid individuals in developing and delivering memorable, influential presentations. One of the tools discussed in this training is – you guessed it – PowerPoint. In the spirit of keeping the training fun, our faciliators like to show the video below featuring comedian Don McMillan’s observations on PowerPoint gone wrong:

While he does take things to the extreme, the pitfalls are real and all too common. Here are my top three pet peeves.

  1. Text Overload. Putting the transcript of your presentation on your slides is not a good idea. You don’t want them to read; you want them to listen and engage. Keep it short and sweet – we recommend the 6 x 6 rule: no more than six words across the slide, no more than six lines down the slide. Comb through your information and keep the bare minimum onscreen.
  1. Ineffective Imagery. Graphics are a tool to enhance your message. They can elicit an emotion, or aid in understanding. All too often I see images that are just… well, there. Be sure to choose images that will resonate with your audience. Clipart is so over! Also, be sure you have the rights to any image you use. There are many sources online for stock photography, and some are available free.
  1. Animations Gone Amok. Don does a great job spoofing this one. Every point does not need a grand entrance. Too much visual distraction annoys the audience and steers the focus away from what’s important: you and your message! A little goes a long way.

PowerPoint is the ubiquitous tool of choice when it comes to a presentation’s visual aid. Let’s keep it as that – an aid. Technical difficulties can and do happen; a prepared presenter should know her stuff and be able to deliver an impactful presentation without it. I once presented in front of my entire company for a rally, and my clicker went on the fritz! I had things showing up at all the wrong moments – I thought I would faint from the panic I experienced. And yes I was laughed at. But it taught me a valuable lesson. Be prepared!  

Those are my PowerPoint pet peeves – what are yours?

Have you ever had a presentation mishap? How did you recover?

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