5 Things You Need to Know About “Death by PowerPoint”

by / ⠀Startup Advice / August 2, 2011

death by powerpointThe common PowerPoint presentation—how often we’ve sat in a crowded classroom or a stuffy library as we lose brain cells by the slide and we struggle to keep our eyelids open. I’m sure medical labs across the country are testing PowerPoint as an effective use in curing insomnia. But in all sincerity, the term “Death by PowerPoint” is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.

If I offend anybody with the below points, I’m sorry. But, we are a presentation design company, and we have the right to be nitpicky. Also, if you can read this, you do not need glasses.

“Death by PowerPoint,”  according to Wikipedia is a “criticism of slide-based presentations referring to a state of boredom and fatigue induced by information overload during presentations such as those created by the Microsoft application PowerPoint.” This little sarcastic blog is a short introduction to help those who read and care about their presentations, and how companies overload their slides with junk instead of knowledge.

Like all great presentations, PowerPoint should follow five simple guidelines.

1. Tell a story.

Picture yourself as Steve Jobs. Whether you’re an Apple or Microsoft fan, you cannot deny that Jobs is one of the best presenters in any industry. Bud Tribble called his method the “Reality Distortion Field”—Steve’s ability to get emotionally involved with an audience, utilizing his charisma and enthusiasm to sell a product, no matter how worthless it may be. Once he’s made that connection (or rapport), the audience is in the palm of his hand. Jobs could probably convince me an older model of the IPhone is worth $300 because it’s an “antique.” Well, maybe.  Recently I went to a conference about stock investments. I remember one speaker really had me hooked because he told a story about how his son spent countless nights reading stock reports and invested roughly $2,000. That money has now quadrupled. I wanted to go back to the hotel, pull up my bank account, and invest. The story was nothing remarkable. But it was enticing because of the possibilities it created.

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Remember, tell a story and build up the emotional connection. First impressions count.

2. Cut the crap with hundreds of slide animations.

Imagine making your audience sit through the above slide with everything flying in. Seriously. What is wrong with you? A couple of bullet point entries is cute, and a couple of slide transitions is fine, but having them each slide? Unless you have a good, specific reason (such as, this is a PowerPoint purely on slide animations), then don’t do it. Think about it this way: every animation or different transition dilutes the audience’s attention more, and more, and more, and more (you get the drift). Keep animation to a minimum, and try not to use more than 2-3 different slide transitions.

3. Keep the text simple.

Can you read this easily? How about this? See, the longer I use these ridiculous fonts, the more I lose an audience’s attention, and their respect. What’s even worse? When you read word for word on the PowerPoint presentation. What happens if I took that slide away from you? Would you even know what’s on it? Too many bullet points will always lose an audience. Slides with the least amount of text always do the best job. Give the audience a sheet of paper detailing the presentation if you have that much too share. But remember, can you really tell a story by using only bullet points?

4. Use color wisely.

Ouch. At least try to show them you care. Don’t give them a horrible color eyesore that makes everything look the same. Does this even look intelligible? By blending in colors properly, you can make text stand out, and make your presentation appear more professional, unique, and visually appealing (not like you took a gallon of virtual paint and spread it across your PowerPoint canvas as if you were sloppily spreading butter across bread).

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5. Charts and diagrams please!

Personally, I find PowerPoint one of the best presentation tools to use graphs and charts. However, most people don’t bother with the bars and graphs. So please start! PowerPoint is a media-driven, visual tool—not a dissertation. PowerPoint already comes equipped with custom pie graphs and charts, with the rest being up to you. Please keep the charts simple though, as we don’t want to see “The growth of 40 different companies in the last 10 years” on one slide. That’s overwhelming and complicated. Keep it as simple as possible.

In conclusion

By the end of this blog you should be able to grasp a little more information on how to use PowerPoint. If not, here are links to great presentations that you can use as references.

Guy Kawasaki

The Brand Gap

Social Media Tools

How to Make Big Things Happen with a Small Team by Jason Fried, 37 Signals

Please stop audience cruelty by using a trite, unprofessional PowerPoint presentation. They came to you for knowledge, yet you provide pain and boredom. I hope this blog can give you some understanding on the fear that is out there. On that note, I leave you with my blessing, now that you survived this 900+ word blog post. And, if you heed this advice, you will be good to go!

Big Fish Presentations is a high-octane design firm specializing in the art of the presentation. From customized presentation design, presentation delivery consultation, and AV rentals, Big Fish Presentations turns its clients’ presentations into experiences for audiences.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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