June 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm #163105
How many times have you seen a PowerPoint slide that looks like this?
I may be underestimating here, but I’ve seen slides that look like this about 57,000 times. I personally consider Microsoft PowerPoint presentation development a unique skill. To be an effective PowerPoint jockey, you must be able to structure content, develop clear and persuasive messages, and integrate relevant and meaningful graphics / visuals. It’s not as easy as you think. And it’s critically important because it’s a near fact that business is done on PowerPoint.
As a manager or employer, I want people who are good at PowerPoints. It’s an essential skill. What do you think?
June 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm #163283
I’ve been on a little kick on this lately but it’s amazing how little focus is done on what most white-collar feds do all day. Most white-collar feds spend their days working on powerpoints, sending email, attending meetings.
It should be an essential skill of learning how to craft your argument and PPT. We should hire for it and train for it.
It sounds really lame to say this but is PPT basically a mission critical skill these days?
June 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm #163281
Dennis R. StillParticipant
I fully agree with this discussion. I have worked in academics, big corporations, small and mid-sized companies where this understanding of a visual story is completely missed. The key components of great presentations are slides that mean something, rather than just throwing up (or vomiting) text into a ppt. The reality is that folks should use the more visually talented to review slides and make suggestions. My biggest pet peeve is not staying consistent with fonts, logos, etc. If you have agency logo in ppt template, don’t cover it up! Keep title fonts the same. Definitely a skill folks should be more careful about.
June 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm #163279
You will spend your days producing powerpoints and going to meetings – not exactly an argument for federal service!
June 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm #163277
It’s part skill, part art. It certainly takes experience and an understanding of how to visually convey an idea to be a great PP jockey.
June 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm #163275
L P O’NeilParticipant
I’d opt for people who use IGNITE rather than PP. Enforced brevity required for IGNITE develops presenters’ editing skills. Text-dense PP presentations are death to an audience. Some managers eschew PP format, usually a Snooze.
People learn and absorb information on multiple levels/channels/forms. PP as practiced in DC reminds me of reading aloud to children. There’s the text on a screen in big letters, kiddies, and I’m reading it to you and you can follow along.
Aren’t we smarter than that by now?
June 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm #163273
You know, I might go so far as to say it’s mission critical. Good decisions aren’t made without a good PowerPoint backing it up.
June 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm #163271
I hear ya, but it’s amazing how much time in business revolves around PowerPoints.
June 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm #163269
Dennis, great points. I agree that you have to master the art of visual communication to be effective at PowerPoints.
June 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm #163267
Good point on the cross between skill and art.
June 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm #163265
I never tried IGNITE. I am looking into it now…
June 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm #163263
1) Presentation graphics slideshows are NOT reports. Sadly, too many believe the two to be interchangeable. If something merits the audience’s extended concentration, and needs to have a record of detailed information to facilitate comprehension and precipitate thought, make it a report! Conversely, do not insist on everything getting sucked into the presentation graphics universe. I hasten to remind people that 98% of what we know and rely on daily was conceived and implemented well before such graphics ever existed. Reading IS still a pretty useful activity.
2) There are few things more boring, or as big a waste of time, than sitting through a presentation where someone reads everything on the screen aloud, word for word, and adds nothing to it. If I wanted a bedtime story picture-book read to me, I would have asked for one. Why exactly did that need to happen? If you happen to be the person giving the presentation, DO NOT EVER lure yourself into doing that by sticking the full text on the screen. Your points on the screen should let the audience know where you are going, remind them where you have collectively been, and serve as memory prompts for what you want to say. If you prompt their curiosity, and they are looking at YOU, rather than the screen, they will ask you questions, you can provide the details, and they will appreciate you for that and perceive you as responsive and knowledgeable. If you switch slides before they have finished reading them, they will either resent you for it, or oblige you to go back to those slides later. Not only is reading a useful skill, but so is dialogue between people. Allow for it to happen by using your slideshow as a springboard.
3) Cramming a slide full of text makes it illegible unless you print it out as one slide per page. Save a few trees over your lifetime, and plan your slides so that you can fit 2 or 3 on a printed page and they’re still readable.
4) I remember hearing a while back on a CBC radio show on technology and culture ( http://www.cbc.ca/spark/ ) that a number of organization were doing away with decks, because they were counterproductive and folks were wasting time on them. I seem to recall something about 3M banning Powerpoint.
5) Ultimately, what we are talking about here is public speaking. If one possesses some skill in public speaking, they will probably use presentation graphics in a more useful and sparing fashion. If they have no skill in public speaking, they will probably try to stuff a report into slides and read them aloud.
June 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm #163261
I really like your point that the slide should serve as a means to engage conversation.
June 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm #163259
I absolutely concur. PowerPoint, in part, has the reputation for wonky clunkiness that it has because it is largely handled by folks who don’t yet have the presentation development skills to use it to advantage. And “presentation development skills” covers a wide range of presentation media (see Mark Hammer’s point 5). PowerPoint somehow seems to have missed out in being included in that genre, possibly because it’s sitting there on just about everybody’s desktop. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you can do it well.
I came to PowerPoint grudgingly because it had such a “dweeby” reputation, but find that I actually enjoy the creative aspects of putting together a presentation that flows well, holds the viewer’s attention, and, yes, is as attractive to the eye as possible. (“PowerPoint” and “attractive” in the same sentence. Imagine!) My educational background is in the arts but I have spent the bulk of my career in administrative work, so I come to the task with what is perhaps a good mix of design awareness and business sensibilities.
Not only can a poorly structured and designed PowerPoint presentation be literally painful to the eye to sit through (i.e., illegible fonts in jarring colors), it stands to lose you your audience with the very first slide.
June 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm #163257
Agreed. Do you have any great examples of an IGNITE presentation. I’m working on my first one for an upcoming conference!
June 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm #163255
For those unfamiliar with IGNITE – the rules are as follows: 20 slides for a 5 minute presentation (15 seconds per slide – set to automatically move forward). You need to get your point across quickly, and the slide should have some sort of visual reference point to what you’re talking about.
June 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm #163253
Dennis R. StillParticipant
Mark’s #1 comment is amazingly, completely, and utterly valid. We have replaced reports (summarized and raw data) with presentation slides. Trouble is that sometimes you need an actual report of the data. You need all the rows and columns to show something sometimes. I’ve received request before where someone wants top 100 X and the relevant columns associated with those. Trouble is, you can’t display that well in PPT. Providing someone an Excel spreadsheet is better than breaking PPT slides up into 5 or 6 to get the same information across.
June 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm #163251
Go to the base URL http://igniteshow.com for lots of examples.
June 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm #163249
Chris – if someone challenges you on the mission critical piece, you can always point them to Tufte’s analysis of PPT and the shuttle disasters: http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB
As long as we’re stuck with it as an accepted tool, need to know how to use it effectively (and know when NOT to use it, per Mark’s comment).
June 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm #163247
Ha…question is would you be able to do an IGNITE at a standard briefing these days? Agree that it’s preferred – but is it realistic? Anyone done one in lieu of the normal standard presentation update
June 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm #163245
So you guys have convinced me that we don’t do a good job of distinguishing between when a report vs. when a PowerPoint is needed. How you present information is a skill in and of itself.
June 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm #163243
Mari, sounds like you’re one of the few great jockeys out there. Your mix of skills is unique and exactly what is needed to produce an engaging deck.
June 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm #163241
You know – it depends on how a PowerPoint is being used:
1) For information sharing to accompany a verbal presentation
2) To convey information more quickly than in a Word document
If #1, I’d say it needs to be less word-heavy and more visual
If #2, then the limiting space of PowerPoint might actually be an improvement on the 150-page briefing you would have needed to read. 🙂
June 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm #163239
June 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm #163237
Powerpoint is definitely an important skill, but I’d argue not to take someone’s word for it when they say they are good at it. I’ll bet the person who made that slide considers themselves proficient in Powerpoint.
June 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm #163235
June 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm #163233
Good breakdown of uses.
June 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm #163231
As a person with a visual disability my problem is people who use unreadable combinations of text and backgrounds, such as white on a screen that faces to white and teeny little font. Also, the words that “fly” onto power point which make me have to continually refocus. Are they TRYING to make it hard for me to read? Do this think that so doing will achieve buy in? It makes me quesiton whether anyone other than the disabled read ADA section 508.
June 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm #163229
E Long PowellParticipant
It’s called Pecha Kucha and was started by two Tokyo-based designers several years ago. Read about it here, http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/msoffice/put-an-end-to-long-winded-presentations-with-pecha-kucha/3049. Tech Republic has a good overview.
June 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm #163226
David W. ScottParticipant
Powerpoint is a tool. Ignite is a method and format. They’re both great at certain things.
The most important automotive safety device is the nut behind the wheel! (Thank you, Driver’s Ed… 40+ years ago)
I hope the attached 3 charts live up to their own philosophy. Though aimed at the Powerpoint environment, the underlying principles apply to Ignite, flip charts, or unaided talking to any size audience.
June 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm #163224
Elizabeth Nell McPhillipsParticipant
Scientists are the worst. How about tables of data no one can read…really? Or graphs where you can’t tell what the numbers are on the x or y axis…really? Rule #1 for scientists – learn how to present your data to the common person or your research is worthless.
June 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm #163222
Corey’s point is well taken in that no publications department would dare hire a graphic designer without first checking out his/her portfolio. But I wonder how often samples of PowerPoint presentations are reviewed in the hiring process for positions that include PowerPoint as a core responsibility. My sense is that PowerPoint is often just one of a laundry list of skills included in the position description and perhaps it’s enough for most hiring managers to see it listed on a resume and have a brief discussion with the candidate about their user experience.
I have worked for a number of organizational directors and above who profess to “not caring” how something “looks” as long as the “information is there.” Their subtext has usually been that design concerns are all about making something “pretty,” and nothing to do with getting the information across — a flawed perspective at best.
The advent of desktop publishing has made everyone [think they were] a designer and, as a result, we live in a world of hideous pizza menus, illegible shopping center signage, and organizational logos that appear to have been created for alien life forms to understand. Thankfully, Microsoft never thought to include a BLAM! Personal Ballistics Missile design program in its basic Windows Office suite.
Which again leads to the central tenet that PowerPoint, while not a desktop publishing program, is a visual tool first – even when the bulk of the deck’s content is text. See Carol’s reply which certainly speaks meaningfully to this point.
June 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm #163220
If communication & presenting are a component of the job (which they almost always are), then yes, using presentation software effectively should be an essential skill.
At the risk of shameless self-promotion, you can see why I feel this way by visiting http://www.slideboom.com/contest2009 and scrolling to 4th place 🙂
June 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm #163218
Blaming PowerPoint for a lousy presentation is like my mom blaming her car for backing into a trash can.
June 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm #163216
That’s funny. I didn’t know the official name for this, but I did know about the lack of metacognitive ability.
June 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm #163212
Carol, you really raise an important issue. The government requires gov websites to be section 508 compatible, but what about other forms of media such as PowerPoint?
June 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm #163214
Really. Compelling. Work. Matthew.
[Should be required viewing for some program managers.]
June 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm #163210
Great reference when developing decks!
June 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm #163208
Mari, that is a really interesting idea — that HR should view people’s portfolio of PowerPoints if presentations are going to be one of their responsibilities.
June 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm #163206
I don’t mean to generalize, but that’s been my experience. You’re absolutely right that it should be presented in such a way that nearly anyone can understand.
June 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm #163204
What is this SlideBoom competition all about?
June 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm #163202
June 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm #163200
Buy Slide:ology – http://www.amazon.com/slide-ology-Science-Creating-Presentations/dp/0596522347 this book is an essential to anyone who prepares slides…I don’t hold to everything advocated here (like the time to make slides) but living and breathing this book will only make your work better, even if you still need to use it as a script (which is what 90% of people giving presentations treat them like). Your work will never be the same. Here is a presentation I did using this text (was for a course which used this book as a text; sorry it is a google link, I’m not able to acces YouTube from work!!!): http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=video&cd=1&ved=0CEgQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D1BfI9vu1ciw&ei=-xzST8TVEpKO8wSag9XOAw&usg=AFQjCNH87CIZYOhTb__JCmKagj0x_ZTRpQ&sig2=0ZiZfd7Px93-O_BvwfYuGw
Visit and occasionally use: Prezi – http://prezi.com/ this tool is quick and fun and decidedly puts you outside of the presentation prison. Here is the example I did just a few minutes for a course: http://prezi.com/k7tzj4oaqea1/self-identity-and-social-media/
June 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm #163198
Obviously it was the garbage can’s fault.
June 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm #163196
Not sure, other than it appears to have been a design competition sponsored by a provider of a cloud based PowerPoint sharing solution. Perhaps Matthew has more detailed info.
June 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm #163194
I consider myself a communicator and I teach communication–even using PowerPoint. PPT should never be an excuse for what we can say with authority but highlight and emphasize what we want people to go away with. There are people who can manipulate PowerPoint to an art, and indeed, I tell students hitting that button at a particular time will enhance their presentation. I’m good at; I’m also a good speaker. Can I manipulate sure and I will to make my presentation get the attention it deserves. But it’s not about me, it’s about the right mix. Some speakers need PowerPoint to even be heard. Everyone needs training in good communication and that includes the tools we use. Some will always be better than us, but there’s experience and others to helps be the best we can do. It is a unique skill and I am appalled when people are expected ( and in my case graded on their ability to use it). My discussions include both. I teach college classes in public speaking and creative thinking these days. What we need are classes that make communicators experts at it. If it works the other way, fine–a PowerPoint expert who can be a master communicator, but sell that to the schools for accreditation.
June 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm #163192
This is a really fascinating discussion. I am currently reading a book called How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid, The Faulty Causality, Sloppy Logic, Decontextualized Data and Seductive Showmanship That have Take Over Our Thinking, by Franck Frommer. The author claims, along the lines of Edward Tufte, that PowerPoint has created a mode of communication that often does the opposite of what intends, mostly because the content is driven by the software, which also promotes items that are ultimately secondary to the message – clip art, images, moving text, etc. Merely the fact that something is being presented in PowerPoint connotes some authority that may not be there. I have not finished the book, nor have I fully digested it, but I agree with most of the author’s points so far.
This current discussion validates a lot of what the author claims. The assumption in most of the comments is that PowerPoint is the way we communicate, almost as the same assumption that we communicate in English. Why? Certainly government communications occured effectively pre-PowerPoint. Given that assumption, it follows that PowerPoint is now a necessary skill, and we can now judge and evaluate PowerPoint presenters, creating a hierarchy of skills, from the mediocre to the superstar.
On a practical level, I see a lot of my colleagues spending inordinate amounts of time crafting text rich decks which in the end no one really reads. This includes hours work for what may be a 15-minute presentation. In the performance art world, this makes sense. You practice hundreds of hours for what may be a 15-minute set because you are, in fact, performing. I am not so sure that this carries over so well into the busines and government world. Also when you are dealing with multiple government agencies, I have told my colleagues that each agency only cares about their own little piece of the presentation. So, out of a deck of 25 slides, they will focus on the one slide that relates to them.
Anyway, this is rich turf for further discussion.
June 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm #163190
The best presenters, speakers, and writers, are those that anticipate what their audience needs and wants to know now, and feeds/nurtures their comprehension, as opposed to merely thinking in terms of what they want to say.
It can be the case that a figure/graphic, toiled over for more time than it will be viewed, serves the goal of allowing the audience to collectively think “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, NOW I get it”. This can be especially true if one is trying to foster perspective and abstract thinking about something in those who have not spent nearly as much time thinking about it as you have. A single slide may well bring everything together for them and assist not only their comprehension but be the common springboard for useful dialogue, if only by having something in common for everyone to point to. But again, the objective is to align all those elements that you believe they would want in place to facilitate their comprehension, presented in a manner that supports it, and not simply a laundry list of what you know on one single screen.
Personally, I don’t treat that as a Powerpoint skill, a speaking skill, or a writing skill. It is fundamentally an explanatory or didactic skill, which just happens to be expressed within a presentation graphics context/medium..
June 9, 2012 at 10:41 am #163188
T. Carter RossParticipant
While I agree with the core points about the need to make PPT slides visually interesting and something more than a page of text, it’s also important to consider how else the file will be used. Is it just your PPT or will others have to make the presentation? Will it be handed out to conference attendees? Last week I was looking at a visually interesting PPT file that must have been a good presentation, but the text was so scant that it was impossible to figure out the point of some of those images.
June 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm #163186
Mari pretty much nailed it. I’ve seen similar contests by Microsoft and SlideShare–I guess this was SlideBoom’s version. I think it’s the only one they’ve had. There are things I’d do differently now, but for where I was 2009 I’m still proud of it. And thanks for the kind words, Mari.
Earlier this year, a high school business teacher found it online. When he realized we were both in Columbus, he contacted me to ask if I would present it in person as a part of the class’s PowerPoint module. The students, he told me, were mostly inner city and would be the first of their families to go to college. I immediately said yes and had a blast with them. Imagine my joy whe I got a packet of 30 thank you letters telling me I helped them get an “A” on their PowerPoint project (which was to re-tell a fairy tale in PowerPoint). It was a very humbling and gratifying experience!
June 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm #163183
As my own presentation evolves, I’m adding a component to instruct people to begin thinking in three dimensions. Applications like Prezi are, I think, where we’re headed.
Microsoft had a similar beta PowerPoint plugin called PPTPlex for a while, but I think it is now defunct.
Glad to see some Nancy Duarte love. She’s kind of my favorite 🙂
June 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm #163181
I think (and hope) that’s where we’re headed. If an audience truly needs a handout, the presenter should create a standalone handout, not a printout of the presentation that “doubles” as a handout. To me, printing the presentation degrades the integrity of what a presentation should be…and, for that matter, what a handout should be.
June 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm #163179
Mark C. HarrisParticipant
The loss of lack presentation expertise is driven, in good part, by (a) the ubiquity of specialized software, (b) the assumption by managers that having software is as good as having specialized experts, and (c) the expansion of the self-service approach within government (i.e., instead of engaging a true expert to prepare your visuals–or plan your business trip, do it yourself).
Several commenters mentioned that effective meeting communications occurred pre-PPT. In my experience as a junior officer in the Air Force in the late 1980s, the method was called view graphs, which were slides consisting of black text on clear plastic sheets that were produced with a bulky thermal printing machine. View graphs were stacks (“decks”) of physical sheets that someone had to manually display on an overhead projector. Getting meaningful graphics onto a view graph sheet often required the skills of graphics specialists–and frequently required separate handouts, due to the need for color. The planning lead time required enforced some degree of thoughtfulness. The level of effort required tended to force economy in what was presented–in the same way that software code had to be written with incredibly ingenious efficiency prior to the availability of abundant, cheap memory.
When Harvard Graphics appeared on federal purchasing contracts and was hawked at most federal IT conferences, suddenly every person with a computer and graphics software was tacitly accepted as an expert (or good enough) in visual communications. Over the next five years or so, business presentation expertise plummeted, and has remained a rare skill set. Those (in the Air Force) who consider themselves experts most often have simply perpetuated a repertoire of poor practices hammered into them by directors of staff, executive officers, command briefers, commanders, and directors. The same phenomenon occurred, to varying extents, with the advent of word processing, numeric analysis and presentation (spreadsheets), publishing (Microsoft Publisher, etc.), project management, etc. Having ubiquitous software largely supplanted having specialized knowledge and skills. I find this still largely to be the case. My organization has a multimedia office, but its members (two photographers and a graphics artist) have no expertise in business presentation effectiveness.
June 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm #163177
Great points….and a real trip down memory lane, too! (used to love Harvard Graphics. FWIW, I still have a thick pile of rub-on lettering from “back in the day” when a presentation meant producing the graphics on onion skin paper, and photocopying them onto acetate overhead transparencies.)
But you’re right. When you make something look easy, and available, people think it IS easy, and that anyone can do it, regardless of degree of expertise I fight the same battle when it comes to surveys. People figure that because you can simply throw one up using any of the current software, that anyone should be able to design one that does the job reliably and validly. I mean, it’s only questions, right? The same way it’s only slides, right?
June 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm #163175
You’re right! And I think gov’t is even worse than the private sector when it comes to ditching the old way of doing things and moving into the 21st century. I’m lucky in that my organization gives the freedom to do things much differently in the PPT arena.
A couple of great resources for those looking to improve are listed below. I a recommending them b/c they’ve helped me tremendously, not b/c I’m selling them.
1. Presentation Zenby Garr Reynolds. This should be required reading before anyone does any kind of presentation
2. Brain Rules by John Medina. This is a great insight into how the adult brain actually works…not how we wish it would.
3. Prezi.com. Great tool for making ppt seem much less rigid and linear.
Thanks for sharing. I wish all agencies, strike that, EVERY presenter would consider that the purpose of a ppt is to share something, not put someone to sleep.
June 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm #163173
When the aliens come and make me Supreme Omnipotent Being, you will not be able to run PowerPoint without passing a quiz on Tufte’s principles.
Even if people followed his main point (put the “what you are talking about” on the slide and give the full details through other means) things would be better.
We waste countless hours sitting in a dull torpor while people read to us off of slides when they could be talking to us about what something means, or expanding on it with stories, or…engage with us, don’t talk at us.
June 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm #163171
Although my initial background was in visual design, I’m not so sure I agree on the need to be a great visual artist to use PowerPoint. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with the “text spume” comment.
I’d hazard a guess that 90% of the bad PPP’s I have suffered through could be fixed through the text alone. And 95% of those fixes would be, “get rid of most of the text”.
All this said, meaningless clip art and visuals, added to “spice up” or decorate a presentation, but add nothing interms of meaning are a true abomination. I often hear something like, “Well it makes it less boring”. No, it makes it more annoying…it already was boring because you spent time adding in clip art rather than actually engaging with your audience with meaningful content and (surprise) what you actually said during the presentation.
June 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm #163169
Good point James. May not need the meaningless clip art/visuals but to me good design is clean/simple/tells story effective. That would be useful training that most people dont get – how to tell your story
June 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm #163167
I was excited to be on the cutting edge when I first used the Corel Presentation program that came with the Word Perfect Suite back in the early nineties. The concept and possibilities were fascinating. Programs like Power Point have since become a crutch for incompetent presenters and I have abandoned it use almost entirely (only under direct orders). Any good presentation should stand on it’s own with slides added for emphasis, not the other way around. The presentation should be written to be given with or without slides, and then do it without slides. The fact that it is being used by everyone should tell us that something is wrong.
Today, I have rules for staff regarding Power Point usage based on George Orwell’s Rules for writing:
- Never use a document or spread sheet as a slide,
- Never put a lot of information on a slide where a little will do,
- If is possible to cut a slide out, always cut it out,
- Never use text where you can use a picture,
- Never use foreign, scientific, or other jargon references if you can find an everyday equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Tip: add a blank slide between slides where the presentation does not relate directly to the slide on the screen. Present, then show the slide for emphasis. If you are going to print the whole presentation, skip the slides.
Frankly, if I never have to sit through another Power Point presentation I will die a happy man.
June 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm #163165
I couldn’t leave this discussion without two more comments:
I assume that most Power Point presentations are only delivered once, Really? What a waste of manpower and hard drive space.
Knowledge is knowing how to make a Power Point presentation, wisdom is not using it.
June 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm #163163
I want people who are good at communicating in a way that gets the desired result. Too often PPT isn’t enough to do more than mark place.
June 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm #163161
That book obviously worked for you. Great slide deck. Prezi looks pretty neat. I am definitely going to try it out.
June 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm #163159
So do you see Prezi as a substitute to PowerPoint?
June 11, 2012 at 11:35 pm #163157
Jack, thanks for seeing the forrest through the trees. You’re absolutely correct that it’s all about good communication — without PowerPoint.
June 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm #163155
Francisco, thank you for your thoughtful response. That book sounds pretty insightful. I’m not surprised that the author argues that PowerPoint has some reverse effects. I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve turned to PowerPoint as my communications medium simply because it requires a lesser degree of logic and critical reasoning. I’ve also been the victim of of developing elaborate PowerPoints that have fallen into black holes. I’ve gotten smarter over the years, though, about deciding how much time I am going to invest by pre-validating receptiveness.
June 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm #163153
Great point. I just consulted to a company the other day on how to improve its sales collateral — including the PowerPoint deck — and I emphasized that the presentation must be able to standalone as it will be forwarded through the potential client’s internal ranks.
June 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm #163151
Mark, that’s an awesome quote:
The planning lead time required enforced some degree of thoughtfulness. The level of effort required tended to force economy in what was presented–in the same way that software code had to be written with incredibly ingenious efficiency prior to the availability of abundant, cheap memory.
You are very wise.
June 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm #163149
Definitely going to check out Brain Rules.
June 12, 2012 at 12:00 am #163147
Dennis, great set of rules. Generally, I try to keep my slides under 5. For really important presentations, I always try to make each slide function as an infographic in a sense. Human mind is wired to process visual elements, not text.
June 12, 2012 at 12:01 am #163145
You’re right. At the end of the day, it’s whatever gets you the desired result, as long as no women and children are hurt in the process.
June 12, 2012 at 12:39 am #163143
Reflecting on it a bit more, I think a good chunk of the time spent on the deck often relates more to what to put in and what to leave out, than making it look pretty. I suspect there are still some folks who get a private tickle from clip-art, fly-ins, fades, and all that. But many organizations have, by now, adopted some sort of corporate common-look-and-feel, and I think the same way that the buzz of snazzy fonts has worn off (a dozen years ago I would have been placated by nothing less than 1000 of them), the buzz of special FX has also worn off. People pick a template, and fill up screen after screen with bulleted Arial-font…stuff.
The allocation of furrowed-brow time probably has more to do now with what people feel “allowed” to say. As much as we talk a good game about “openness”, it is an ongoing battle in government to commit to revealing anything. I often joke at work that we ought to just buy printer paper that says “Draft” on it, since things seem to stay in draft state forever. In part that is because it is so easy for documents to end up being turned against us (or against our management), that there is reticence to reveal too much in anything that gets projected onto a screen for the consumption of many.
Another aspect is the constant pressure to live in the world of “the executive summary”: that concoction one has to construct for those in authority who have so little time to read, and so many meetings to attend, that we are commanded to eschew nuance, insight, context, and details.
Walking that line between wanting to say what you believe needs saying, and revealing too much, or “burdening” the person (who sticks around for the first half of the presentation before heading off to another meeting, and takes the handout as a souvenir), is a tricky one. I mean, there really are people who, completely unfettered, have no conception of how to construct a pleasant and informative visually-aided presentation. But I suspect there are also many whose ability to put a decent deck and presentation together is hampered by their sensitivity to what they think is permissible and prudent to say, or get into. A written report could provide them all the room they need to do a decent job, but then nobody wants to spend time reading a report (remember, the busy executive!), so you try and stuff it into a deck…and usually fail miserably because decks are NOT where you get into nuance and detail. They are not the format where you footnote anything. But what if the content demands parenthetical comment?
All of that preceding analysis will surerly perplex those who have sat through too many presentations where the presenter has prepared far too many slides, and proceeds to race through them (“So, we’ll skip that one…and that one…and that one too”) as their time runs out, like some sort of Fillmore West lightshow, to get to the summary and conclusions slide and read it aloud because they have no time left to reflect, and at this point are too frantic to think of something to say, so they just read the script..
Sometimes those presentations reflect the ignorance of the audience, which in turn comes from us too often working in silos. You stuff everything in because you don’t know what they do and don’t know.
Overall, I think both the presentation that is clumsy because it is disorganized, and the one that is clumsy because it tries to stuff everything in, are a reflection of people who aren’t sure about what they are supposed to say, and supposed to conceal. Some of that is “fixed” by people learning more about their organization, and simply sharing knowledge. Some of it is fixed by scheduling fewer meetings and giving people more time to think and discuss. Some of it is fixed by letting folks be a little more forthcoming. And some of it is fixed by rendering unto reports what is report material, and keeping only what is deck-appropriate for decks.
June 12, 2012 at 1:24 am #163141
Candace – I gave one last year…and it’s tough to prep one of these…and even harder to deliver effectively. Based on my experience, I’d say it’s relatively impractical for regular usage.
June 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm #163139
Chris, I see Prezi as an alternative that should be used ON OCCASION. It is a more fluid presentation style that lends itself to presentations on infographics (with each piece being focused on independently), topics of cause and effect, brief introductions, etc. The one I presented was 8 “slides” long… and really you don’t want too much of that. It’s a great tool… one that should be brought out only on special occasions. Like with PPT, I think it is part of the process to consider what you are trying to convey and to whom before you pick a tool. If I’m digging a hole for a pansy, I need a spoon or a small trowel… not a 10 ton bulldozer. If I’m digging the footing for the empire state building, I’m going to need something bigger than a spoon. Both tools are effective, in the right context.
June 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm #163137
I agree with your comment that there’s bad Powerpoint presentations because of their bad taste in fonts. Clip art isn’t the first goto solution. An interesting, simple, clean and well designed Powerpoint slides make an effective presentation. Do something subtle to tie in the whole presentation. Bring in branding elements from the company. A good overall design on the slides can make things visually appealing and turn a presentation from boring to interesting.
June 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm #163135
You are so right, the problem is that the audience does not know what place is being marked and becomes confused.
I would be very interested to hear what the result is when someone does the totally unexpected, like using some other medium besides Power Point, and with the lights on. I may sound skeptical but in a former life I was subjected to two or three really bad Power Point presentations twice a month for two years. I promised myself that I would never subject anyone else to that wretchedness.
June 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm #163133
Personally, I see Powerpoint enginnering and live deployment as more of an animal than a skill. I’ve often been slated at the Powerpoint Monkey for many an event or presentation. KPAs for this animal include being able to summarize the complex thoughts of others into 3-5 bullets, image procurement, basic visual design, and convincing others that salient points are more important on screen, with details explained. And smiling. Lots of smiling. : )
June 13, 2012 at 11:51 am #163131
You are very kind!
June 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm #163129
I’m a huge Pecha Kucha fan here in Columbus 🙂
June 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm #163127
Amen to Presi! It makes PowerPoint look like Lotus 1-2-3.
The best use of slide presentation software I’ve seen by a speaker was Steve Denning at a knowledge management conference. 6 slides for a 45-50 minute keynote address. Each slide was an image – no text – and he didn’t speak around each slide or even acknowledge that the slide had changed. During that portion of his keynote, you would start to see how the image correlated with the speech. It made for a riveting presentation — especially when an image of a squirrel came up, because you just had to know what he was going to say that related a rodent to knowledge management!
June 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm #163125
I really like that approach.
June 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm #163123
Kimberly J. WilsonParticipant
I’m finding this discussion quite interesting, as I have made it something of a personal project to suggest alternatives to the entrenched text-heavy-slides-that-you-print-out-as-a-handout approach. I teach internal training courses at our agency, and have moved our materials over the last two years in a new direction. Now, our slides are nearly all single images with little if any text, and each course participant receives (instead of the traditional clunky binder full of ppt printouts) a spiral-bound workbook containing content, exercises, and note-taking space. The workbook can stand alone, and when combined with the participant’s notes, will serve as a re-usable reference in the future.
Similarly, for a shorter 90-minute course session, we have a handout that is a half-page size, saddle-stitched booklet. It’s actually fewer copies than printing a slide deck would be, can be inexpensively produced by the government print shop, and is an immediate attention-getter.
I’m heartened to see there’s such a growing movement toward more effective presentation materials, and I can only hope that it becomes the new norm. In the meantime, we can all do our part by never making a slide deck when what we really need is a handout- because a ppt that tries to be both handout and slide deck isn’t good at either one.
June 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm #163121
I really like that approach to all-image slides. Good comment!
September 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm #163119
Unless you work all by yourself … you have to communicate. Powerpoint can help if you do it right. If the audience is sleeping, you are not doing it right. And don’t forget … you are trying to communicate, not show off.
Here’s one good example http://www.geardo.com/docs/how_to_win_in_anbar.pdf
September 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm #163117
Kerry Ann O’ConnorParticipant
A while back, OMB sponsored a workshop for the Performance Improvement Council called Extreme Presentation Design, by Dr. Andrew Abela at Catholic University. It has completely changed my approach to presentations. I can’t recommend his workshop, method, books, website enough. It’s about so more than the Power Point, but rather a whole strategy about the audience, the goals, the problem at hand, the data, the presentation of the data, the sequencing of the story, the measuring of the impact. Check it out: http://www.extremepresentation.com/
September 8, 2012 at 3:13 am #163115
There’s no worse feeling when you’re delivering a terrible PowerPoint presentation. You also know when you’re delivering a bad one when the audience starts flipping through the slides in front of you.
September 8, 2012 at 3:14 am #163113
That sounds like a great workshop. Thanks for sharing the link to it.
September 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm #163111
I really like that approach of relying on visuals to give the presentation, but delivering text read-aheads if needed.
September 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm #163109
Many office problems can be solved by developing a style manual for font sizes, font type, power point length, etc.
Typically I provide the power point ahead of time so my audience can digest the information, come to the briefing prepared with questions and comments, and ask them to bring them to the bringing.
I typically present the business case of what I am proposing so I couldn’t imagine only using visuals. I would love to see an example of that.
I was told Times New Roman 12 font for documents, 20 or above for power point, maximum of 5 slides, 3 bullets each. Beyond that point not only do you loose interest and your credibility as a professional, you are torturing people.
Additionally, any handouts must be readable. Before reproducing handouts we should check to see if the font is large enough to read. I’m flabbergasted that people write in Munchkin font, and produce handouts in Lilputian font. Being unseeable and therefore unreadable, they serve no purpose and are a waste of the dollars taxpayers entrust to us. Useless, wasteful documents create a negative impression of the speaker in my mind.
I’m insulted when people use teeny font, difficult to read ones, and have words “fly” onto the power point so I have to continually refocus. Also, I don’t understand the value of sound effects and consider them distracting. Are presenters trying to impress me with their subject matter expertise or their power point skills?
September 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm #163107
Carol, great tips! You’re absolutely right about providing a style manual — even better, a template.
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