6 May 2010

The Point of PowerPoint?

Slide one: charts, graphs, bullet points. Slide two: charts, graphs, bullets points.

Last week I coached a group of clients on how they could fine-tune their presentations for a big event. Trouble was, many of them relied way too much on PowerPoint (PPT) to get their message across. And although none of their slides looked quite like this by the end of the week I had my full of long bullet point lists and elaborate charts.

At the same time my clients were struggling with their PPT dependence, an article appeared in the New York Times with the witty headline "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.” Turns out that the US Military has PPT problems too, or to quote one general, "PowerPoint makes us stupid."

The problem with PPT is that while we all use it regularly, it’s a skill we have learned on our own. Few of us are following the same rulebook. We have forgotten that the audience is there to hear OUR message and OUR story, not just read text in 16 point font projected on a screen.

My personal advice to clients includes avoiding an agenda slide for shorter presentations, making sure the headline contains the message and that everything on the slide supports that message, and above all---avoiding bullet point lists longer than five items. But don’t just take my word for it-- YouTube’s reigning PPT comedian Don McMillan can offer up some hilarious help and advice.


Elizabeth Walentin may be new to the blogging scene, but she's an old hand when it comes to strategic communications. An American with five years in Sweden under her belt, her areas of expertise include presentation training, media relations, and political strategy. She is a communications consultant and head of Education at JG Communication.

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