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PowerPoint Suicide

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The other day I was at an event and the speaker was using PowerPoint as most speakers do. The slides had so much text on them it would have taken hours to read it all, but you didn’t have to as the speaker was reading to the audience, like a kindergarten class before nap time. All the while the presenter kept looking at the screen and reading every word, while the audience was being lured to sleep while they just kept droning on and on. The pictures were fuzzy, the slides had a dull white background, but at least you could read the text! No chance to interact with the audience as her job was to read us every last word off of her carefully written slides.

Why is it that people think that more is better with Powerpoint? More text, more animation, more text, more pictures, more clip art, more text, more bullets, more numbers, more WordArt, more slide transitions, more text, more video clips, more audio files, etc. I call this PowerPoint Suicide. Slides that look like they went through a hurricane, with so much debris lying everywhere it is hard to distinguish what may be worth salvaging from the wreckage. I have watched too many presenters strangle themselves with presentation software, yet they just keep resurrecting themselves from the debris and doing the same thing in every boardroom and conference room across America. Someone needs to stop them before we die of narcolepsy.

How about trying less is better when you create slides for your presentation…your audience will applaud you! Put as few words as possible on your slides, just enough to spark their interest without giving away too much information. This way the audience will actually need to listen to what you have to say to be able to understand the information you are presenting. I use the 5 x 5 rule, no more than 5 bullets with no more than 5 words in each bullet. It can be difficult to be sparse with your words but it is worth the payoff. Bottom line: Be succinct as possible with your text.

If you prefer pictures to convey your message then do so with brevity. If a picture is worth a thousand words than why would 10 pictures on one slide be better? People do not have the time to decipher the meaning out of ten pictures in a short timeframe so don’t make them work to find the information. They will miss your entire speech playing Where’s Waldo with your slides. Create the slides as a visual representation of what your speech is about. Bottom line: Be succinct as possible with your pictures and visuals.

If you are planning on using a slide template and background pick one that is appropriate to the audience and event. PowerPoint has thousands of templates that coordinate the color, font, background and bullets, so don’t reinvent the wheel. Use a font that is large enough for all to view in all parts of the room and a color that will not blind your audience. The text color and background should have a significant contrast so that people can read the text and not think they have been engulfed by a thick fog where they cannot read or see anything. Use the same fonts, backgrounds, and colors on the slides throughout the presentation to create uniformity and visual appeal. Bottom line: Be succinct with fonts, colors and backgrounds.

Please help resurrect corporate America from PowerPoint Suicide by creating presentations that are simple, uncluttered yet present a powerful message. Be so familiar with your slides and information that you don’t need to read at the audience, but can expand on the points presented and engage their minds. Interact with the material in a new way by cultivating awe and wonder on the screen not boredom and narcolepsy. We are depending on you!

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