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Jan 10 2008   3:03PM GMT

Overheard: How to prevent death by PowerPoint

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

powerpoint.jpg I think we’re in agreement that the words “God-awful” and “PowerPoint” should never be used in the same sentence.

Margaret Rouse, Face-Off: PowerPoint vs. PowerPoint

Seth Godin, author of All Marketers are Liars, has granted permission for me to repost excerpts from his eBook Really Bad PowerPoint. There are tons of PowerPoint tutorials available online, but Seth is the only one I’ve found who’s talked about the purpose of a PowerPoint presentation. Seth writes:

If everyone in the room agreed with you, you wouldn’t need to do a presentation, would you? You could save a lot of time by printing out a one-page project report and delivering it to each person. No, the reason we do presentations is to make a point, to sell one or more ideas.

Every time you make a presentation, you’re trying to sell your point of view. And to sell anything, you need to connect emotionally to your audience. Don McMillan does that in every presentation, even while he’s making fun of bad PowerPoint.

Reading your slides or ticking off bullet points won’t help you create an emotional connection with your audience. Neither will charts and graphs. So how SHOULD you use PowerPoint? Seth has come up with five rules everyone should follow. I’m paraphrasing:

– No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken. (I love this rule!)

– No cheesy images. (Translation – no clip art) Use professional stock photo images.

– No dissolves, spins or other transitions.

– Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program.

– Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.

Seth also recommends that you make cue cards for yourself so you remember to say everything you wanted to say, that your slides reinforce your words (not repeat them) and that you create a handout that reinforces your presentation and give it out after you’re done.

You’ll know when you’ve done it right. Seth says:

The home run is easy to describe: You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you’re going to say that fits in with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they’ll see the image (and vice versa).

Sure, this is different from the way everyone else does it. But everyone else is busy defending the status quo (which is easy) and you’re busy championing brave new innovations, which is difficult.

I think I want to dig a little deeper into this idea of using PowerPoint to emotionally connect with an audience. I’ve asked a colleague to start a thread called PowerPoint Help over in the QnA part of this site.

I’ll begin the answer and we’ll try to get people (that would be you) to improve upon it. The QnA section is a wiki, so you just have to log in and edit or add to what’s there. If you’ve never tried a wiki before, here’s your chance. You can’t mess anything up. It’s impossible. Just click “improve this answer” and add a rule.

And since I’m talking about using PowerPoint to create an emotional response, I’ve set up a rant section for you to share your worst PowerPoint experience. Feel free to express your emotions. : -)

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