How can we convince the 80% of presenters who are not effectively using PowerPoint to stop using it?
This question was posed to me recently by a Design Dispatch subscriber. We’ve all seen presenters who just don’t get it. No matter what they might have heard about Death by PowerPoint, no matter if their speaker evaluations are consistently lousy, no matter if they’re seeing members of the audience leaving the room while they’re speaking, some people continue to create really boring, crappy decks.
Q Why do people make bad slides?
A Because it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.
People are constantly cobbling presentations together from different decks, not caring whether or not the slides look alike. The default slide format in PowerPoint practically begs you to type bullet points with however many indents your heart desires. And Google makes it so easy to find pictures for presentations, which lots of people do with complete disregard for copyright laws (to the point where I’ve actually seen presentations that use watermarked images).
But since when is the easiest way the best way?
Imagine if the next movie you saw was just a table read, filmed by a single camera and showing the actors sitting in a conference room reciting words from their scripts. Would you pay nine bucks to see that?
What if you had been at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month and Apple CEO Tim Cook was onstage reading his keynote off of index cards, never looking up at the audience. You think the news about the new iPhone operating system would have seemed as exciting?
As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.” In both of the above examples, the basic information is delivered. But nobody would care because the delivery stinks! It takes time, effort, and skill to create a finished movie or craft a polished keynote. You know those presenters who have such a carefree, seemingly spontaneous delivery? That, my friends, is the result of hard work, preparation, and lots of practice.
Bringing it back to the bad presenters causing Death by PowerPoint, they’re doing the equivalent of a table read or an index-card keynote. Creating an outline, typing lots of bullet points and text, and sourcing watermarked images is just the beginning of the process. The real work begins afterwards, when you edit your stream-of-consciousness slides down to the essentials of what you want to communicate to your audience. You need to create a compelling story to make people care. And you have to make sure that your deck is an extension of your company’s brand, that it forms part of a cohesive whole that supports your messaging.
I can’t verify whether or not 80% is an accurate percentage of presenters who bore their audiences with bad PowerPoint. But there sure are a lot of bad presenters out there. That’s something you can use to your advantage, because your decks can be different. You have the ability to impress your audiences with a well-designed presentation that rises above the lousy decks, that stands apart because of the effort you put into it.
So how do we convince the hacks to stop using PowerPoint? We don’t. Instead, we create decks that are so much better than theirs that people can’t help but take notice. Your audience knows when you’re prepared and when you’re not. By delivering killer presentations, you’ll achieve what the bad presenters never will: a meaningful connection with your audience.