Currently Reading

Excuse me, sir…your PowerPoint sucks


Excuse me, sir…your PowerPoint sucks

March 27, 2013

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. 

Guy gets up to give a presentation. 
Self-deprecating intro.
Strong voice.
He’s confident. 
He’s likeable. 
So far so good.
And we’re off…. 
Slide 1: 99 words. 0 images.
Slide 2: 96 words. 0 images.  
Slide 3: 89 words. 0 images.
Two minutes in and he’s officially lost the audience, which coincidentally is a room full of potential prospects for his message. 
Well, it was a room full of potential prospects.
Now, as Zig Ziglar says, they are all just potential suspects
True story from February 21st, 2013.
Those were actual word counts. 
This poor chap sent out his slide deck afterwards.
Here is the harsh reality: As a species we have this cerebral shortcoming. 
We overvalue our capabilities. 
Poll 100 individuals on their driving skills and 90 of them tell you they’re above average behind the wheel. Statistically this is not possible.
Same rule applies with Power Point.
More harshness: If you’ve created and delivered a Power Point presentation in the last year, it probably sucked. For the audience and maybe even for you. 
And if your Power Point failed, your communication effort failed. 
Power Point is so vexing because of its inherent contradiction: starting a PPT is so easy (Open… New. Use template. Done!) while everything else is so hard. 
Public speaking (done well) is hard.
Effective story-telling is hard. 
Creating “dramatic tension” is hard.  
Interested in a two-step solution?
Here it is.
1. Buy “Persuasive Presentations” by Nancy Duarte.
2. Do what it says. 
It’s a simple solution, but certainly not easy. 
Since most people won’t buy this book and the few that do probably won’t implement its advice - you’ll stand out even more when you do.
My Primary Takeaway
Along with trips to Disney, Costco, and a Carnival Cruise, it’s critical you plan ahead when you visit Power Point Peninsula. Otherwise you’ll be out there all alone. 
Duarte’s book in Harvard’s “HBR Guide to...” series, will help bring the audience with you.
Here are 4 tips to improve your next Power Point communication:
UNO: Create slides people can “get” in 3 seconds. 
One idea per slide. 
If you want to convey lots of critical information - make a handout. 
No need to place 99 words on a slide. 
Try 6 or less.
Slides are free. 
Use as many as you’d like. 
If you need lots of text to keep you on track, you don’t know your material well enough.
DOS: Use story-telling principles.
Your presentation should have a Beginning, Middle and End. 
TRES: S.T.A.R.: Something They’ll Always Remember.
What’s the BIG idea the audience will remember in 2 years?
Be memorable.
CUATRO: Never use clip art & cliche images.
Use plenty of images, but not clip art.
This is lazy.
It shows you don’t care about the audience.
Think about metaphors you can use. 
Then use images based off the metaphors.
Here is the harsh reality: No one is going to stop you from presenting your digital tryptophan - Power Points that put your audience to sleep instantly.
You’ll keep on keeping on until one day you’ll question why co-workers are passing you by. You’ll wonder why you have to keep repeating the same message over and over again, year in and year out.
It’s not them.
It’s you.
Power Point is communication. 
Decide if you're willing to make yours effective.
Do what it says.
Stand out.