It was a large ballroom. Men were in suits, women in business blazers. Big wine glasses filled with sparkling water. Smaller wine glasses filled with actual wine. Starched white table cloths. Fresh cut flowers on the table. It was a fantastic professional environment. The perfect setting to entertain, capture attention, bring the crowd to life. Except were were all dying. You guessed it: it was “Death by PowerPoint”. (I guess the flowers had a dual use)
And here’s the murder weapon. The actual presentation we sat through:
Names have been removed to protect the innocent. And please note this was a few years back and we have all gotten better now haven’t we? Honestly I hope so.
There’s something important to note about this experience: the speaker was actually very good. He had a good style of presenting and was funny when he needed to be. He actually did a fair job of using the following elements:
But the slide design was terrible. Honestly, scroll back up there and click through those slides again, all 54 of them. Do it. They are over-filled with text. The text does not flow or even match at times. There are bulleted lists, numbered lists, bulleted lists with boxes as bullets (nothing screams the 90s more than those box-style bullets) They are Franken-slides made from years of research.
As tempting as it is to re-make that slide show I cannot bring myself to do it, and I make plenty of presentations for other events so I thought I would add one of those here. It’s not perfect but is certainly a big step from the “Death by PowerPoint” you see above. This was a presentation that I collaborated on with some of our tech coordinators here at our school. We each did a part of the presentation. My slides are nothing but images. There are other slides that are images with a few bits of text. Other than the fact that is obviously mis-matched in its design (due to the fact that it was created by three people) I feel it’s a pretty good example of what a presentation can be. (may I suggest you use the settings icon to view the speaker notes, or you can hit the “s” key while moving through the presentation)
So you have an example of a good speaker with terrible slides and good slides with an average presenter (me). What’s the lesson here? You have to be able to design an eye-catching presentation. It really has to look great, right? But the real power is in the “performance” itself. I’ve seen crappy slides and a great presenter and it “worked”. People liked it, they learned, they walked away feeling good about the experience. But even the best slides in the world will fall flat if the speaker is not skilled. Look back at the list of elements of a great presentation above. Many of them are not directly about slides, though they can be applied in that way. They are mostly about the experience. So by all means please work on those slides. Focus on design. Kill the PowerPoint stereotype. But don’t leave the human presentation and style behind, it’s the real key to bring your presentation to life.