Spend time searching online for how to create better corporate or product presentations, and very quickly you’ll learn that slide presentation software, particularly Microsoft PowerPoint, seems to be reviled around the world. Why?
Because we’ve all be subjected to those ‘death by bullet-point’ presentations where the speaker packs in too much information – both in terms of each individual slide as well as in the entire presentation. Where the speaker seems to be in a supporting role to the presentation, rather than the other way around.
But is that PowerPoint’s fault?
Your PowerPoint Presentation Sucks Because You Suck At Presentations
The reason why many business presentations are so painful to sit through is that they are not thought out.
Presentations are slapped together, often the day before they are needed, from content mined from various disparate sources. Images or illustrations are repurposed from other media, with the inevitable result that they are inappropriate from a communicative point-of-view. Clip art, or its 21st Century Bastard Son in the form of stock photography, is used to break up the monotony of too much text – rather than for better communicating the value message. Finally, the presenter has not had the time (or the forethought) to properly rehearse the presentation. They invariably end up trying to convey too much – resulting in confusion, complication and frustration for all concerned.
None of the above is the fault of slide presentation software. PowerPoint and its ilk are simply vehicles for delivering content. No more, no less.
Yes, I agree that any software that compels the novice presenter to “Click Here To Add Text” can be seen as being instrumental to the problem of generally poor presentations. However, one should not apportion blame to a communications tool when the core of any presentation – its message – is the author’s responsibility.
You can create an astounding presentation using software such as PowerPoint, just as you can create an absolute car crash. But the likelihood of creating a great presentation has nothing to do with the tool being used. You could use Apple Keynote, Google Slides, or even Adobe Acrobat. Once I gave a presentation to 1,000 people using nothing more than Apple Quicktime, which was voted the best presentation of the event. The most-viewed presentation on the TED website is by Sir Ken Robinson – who doesn’t use slide software at all.
PowerPoint Isn’t The Problem
At pretty much every level of business, efficiently and effectively conveying an idea is essential. There can’t be a middle manager or C-Suite executive anywhere that hasn’t had to give a presentation at some point in their business lives. Yet it would seem the world’s business schools are ignoring the importance of presentation skills as part of their curricula.
There’s precious little training being given. When you go to a conference and see someone give a presentation who knows what she’s doing, they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Is the standard of presentations getting better? Certainly. While I don’t go to as many conferences as I used to, I’m certainly seeing less slides on a dark blue background with 5,342 words written in 7pt type. But maybe the standard of presentation at conferences I go to aren’t typical. Your mileage may vary.
Regardless, the stone cold fact of the matter is it’s not the fault of your presentation software that your presentation sucks. That fault lies with you.
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Don’t blame the tools, blame the workman.