Why Power Point should be Banned

Complicated powerpoint diagram This week I’ve had three good examples of why Power Point presentations should be banned.

We’ve all heard the expression ‘death by powerpoint’ and yet professional people who should know better are still subjecting unsuspecting audiences to presentations that are utterly boring, banal, condescending, overly-complicated, time wasting, mind-numbing, bum-numbing, yawn making …. well. you get the picture.

The ONLY reason for making a presentation should be to move your audience in some way; change their thinking or perception, their attitudes or behaviour.

To move an audience a speaker needs to make a connection by creating chemistry but so often all they create is boredom.

Don’t do this:
The first example had university lecturers not only reading every word on their slides (power point as script) but giving us all a USB stick with the bloody slides on as well just in case we didn’t get the message by seeing it and hearing it simultaneously!

If a slide needs to be read out loud it has no business being in a presentation.

The second example was a boring man who should never have been allowed near the business end of a microphone who actually left his lectern to cross to the other side of the stage and reach up to point to a number on the slide (one among hundreds) and explain what it meant. Thankfully we couldn’t hear what it was because his microphone was attached to the lectern on the other side of the stage.

If you want to give a report – print it and mail it. Its not a presentation.

The third was a woman who said she was going to tell us some stuff from last year, this year and next year and paused while she clicked through three separate slides showing the years she was talking about, just in case we’d got caught in a time warp.

Don’t treat your audience members as though they are idiots

All of these people earn high salaries. All of them have help in their fancy offices from people who should know how to put a presentation together. All of them should know better – and so should the people who booked them as speakers!

Don’t hold your audience hostage just because they’re too polite to leave

If you expect people to give their time and attention to a speaker at your event, do us all a favour and make them deliver the presentation without Power Point first. If they can pass the test and hold an audience with what they SAY, then and only then, allow them to add slides that illustrate and punctuate the presentation and NEVER, EVER duplicate the script.

Good presenters practice. They plan and prune and work out how to make an impact. If there was a power cut they would still deliver a great presentation. They don’t need the prop of Power  Point.

If  you’re not a good presenter don’t think Power Point will save you.  It won’t.

If you’d like to get free tips on how to be a better presenter, sign up to the blog by my friend and communication coach Jon Torrens 

22 replies
  1. maxinemaxxy
    maxinemaxxy says:

    lol love this so much … even if it’s not certain death it can be a slow painful one … and you are absolutely right if you cannot speak or present then powerpoint won’t save you. 
    What I hate is the way they teach powerpoint in schools. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is where some of this starts. My 13yo has a powerpoint presentation to do for science homework and can you believe my 7yo also has a powerpoint presentation to do on world war 2 !!  Yeuch!  I have asked them both to rehearse the phrase  “mummy says that SlideRocket is better as a cloud based application with more engagement and we don’t subscribe to the microsoft money making machine” … hahaha … I bet their teachers will love me!  

  2. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

     @maxinemaxxy I didn’t realise they got kids to use PP in school! I’m just off to tell all the presentation skills trainers I know to get in there and show them how to present to engage! 

  3. aydinstone
    aydinstone says:

    Agree with every word. Teaching office productivity tools in school makes me very angry.
    The first reason is that any application that’s taught will be out-of-date by the time the student would actually need to use it (and most schools are way behind the curve with most of their IT).
    But the second reason is that office productivity tools were invented for morons to make them appear more capable.
    In the old days you had a professional secretary who typed. Now any moron can do it (as long as they’ve got Word). You used to have to need a professional designer and photographer to create ‘slides’ (and they actually were photographic slides) but now any moron can create a slide from comic sans and clipart in minutes. You used to have to practice, train and have experience as an orator to be trusted and be considered worthy to deliver a talk. Now any moron is allowed to do it.
    So take it further Ann. Ban the whole of MS Office and any ‘tool’ that makes it easier for a tool to take to the stage – without becoming a communicator first.

  4. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

     @aydinstone I’m actually thinking of saying; “My time is worth this much. If you insult me with a crap presentation I’m going to invoice you.” Unfortunately, when I mention it to other people, although they agree that the presentations were poor they’re not prepared to say anything to the organisers. It seems that its the corporate folk who are the worst offenders and I suspect its because they are given the job of presenting without the training. However, as you and @maxinemaxxy mentioned, its appalling that pupils are taught to use PP without first being taught how to communicate without it. 

  5. aydinstone
    aydinstone says:

     @AnnHawkins  @maxinemaxxy I was at an event recently that had hour long presentations that read every word from bullet points on the screen. I wondered about it; could I, having been given the same information, put it across better, but still actually get the same information across. The answer was ‘yes’, and I’d be able to do it in half the time, and there’d be retention of the key points. The more I thought about it the more cross I became at the thought that such travesties of time wasting are acceptable.

  6. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

     @aydinstone  @maxinemaxxy This is where I have a dilemma. Should I stand up and say “If you’re going to do the whole presentation like that just mail it to me” and leave. Or is that unbearably rude? To me its no more rude than someone holding me hostage and wasting my time but the hapless presenter (often a junior) doesn’t really understand this, or the organiser/host would be mortified if I were rude to their chosen presenter. I usually restrict myself to a crtique afterwards but fear I am a lone voice in the wilderness as this appalling practice shows no signs of improving. 

  7. clocsen
    clocsen says:

    My (large) company has a corporate style where Powerpoint is the de facto method of producing all sorts of documents, most of which end up being presented. It drives me nuts. Having said that, in a multi-national, multi-language environment like ours there are advantages to having lots of words up on the screen for recipients who are not first language English speakers, even more so in cases where the presenter is not a native speaker and/or has a heavy accent.

  8. aydinstone
    aydinstone says:

     @clocsen You’re right, but as Ann says; if people are just sitting there reading – they can do that at home, or in the office, basically anywhere but wasting time in a presentation.

  9. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

     @aydinstone  @clocsen Frankly, Owen, I don’t care who wastes your time when you are being paid to sit there. Presumably someone, somewhere in your corporation will one day wake up to the fact that things could be done more efficiently. 
    I do object to *my* time being wasted when no-one but me pays me to be bored, under the guise of being a *guest* of an organisation that seemingly wants my business or my support. 

  10. GaryDickenson
    GaryDickenson says:

    PP or prezzi or others are just tools. They can be used to good effect or bad. A bad workman blames his tools because he (or she) uses them badly. Banning the tools won’t help but banning the usage or certain style would or of course better training. Like many things it seems to be a big barge that takes a long time to turn around.
    I like the idea of billing someone for wasting time.

  11. aydinstone
    aydinstone says:

    Most people’s use of the ‘tools’ of PowerPoint et al are like giving a baby a big fat felt tip. You turn you back and they’ve drawn all over the wall and their face. Tools need training.

  12. Siobhan Costello
    Siobhan Costello says:

    I’m coming in a bit late on this one but it’s such a relief to read that there is a rebellion against Powerpoint out there.  When I worked in the NHS and later the Civil Service there was an expectation that if you were going to deliver a presentation that it would be a PP presentation.  Hours were spent developing the PP slides (without training I might add) and so by the time it came to give the thing, you were stressed out about whether the PP would work and the content/quality of the actual presentation fell into second place.  It seemed the emphasis was on getting the slides deliver the message rather than the speaker! And it seemed that people judged the presentation by the whizzy slides – you know the ones that zapped in from both sides mesmerising you, played videos etc more than they remembered what the person actually said.   So I’m all for a ban.  Develop other tools for engaging the audience and keeping their interest. Learn how to be a good presenter and mesmirise people with what you actually have to say.

  13. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

    @Siobhan Costello Adding technology doesn’t make anybody better at things they’re not very good at without the technology (if you see what I mean) but I think in the case of PP it can actually turn a half decent presenter into a truly awful one.

  14. Thetaxfather
    Thetaxfather says:

    The problem is people’s brains work in different ways. I digest data a lot quicker in picture format. Well designed slides with relevant diagrams help me understand the basis behind complicated presentations. Don’t get me wrong just putting words on a slide and having whooshing slides is just as distracting as just verbal descriptions.

  15. stevedesigner
    stevedesigner says:

    GaryDickenson Have to agree with Gary here. I produced a large PowerPoint for the BBC to use internally a few years ago and apparently one guy asked how the presentation had been made. “In PowerPoint” was the reply, but he wouldn’t believe it. “I use PowerPoint all the time and it can’t do that!” What had I done that was so special? Avoided using any ‘special’ transitions and kept it simple. Very odd.
    Also, let’s not forget some of the fantastic TED talks that use slides as punctuation, for laughs or to support the spoken content.
    I think what AnnHawkins is _really_ getting at is that people should think about their talks more and the slides less?

  16. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

    stevedesigner GaryDickenson Spot on Steve. Seth Godin was mentioned at last night’s CamCreative and that’s another great example of where slides are used to punctuate a presentation. I think the difference is, if the presentation can be given without slides and a few are added for emphasis, its always going to be better than a presentation that is reliant on the slides. 
    What I’d really like to see is that people shouldn’t be allowed to present until they’ve passed a test and that I’ll write the test! :)

  17. grahamjones
    grahamjones says:

    Excellent advice. Remember, Microsoft Word has never turned a poor writer into the next Shakespeare. Equally, Microsoft PowerPoint has never turned a bad presenter into a good one.

  18. Jon Green
    Jon Green says:

    The problem is this: not everyone’s got the right kind of visual creativity to create a compelling PP presentation. So who do you go to, to get the job done?

    Even if you find someone who is (a) deeply creative, and (b) lives, eats and breathes PowerPoint (I contend that’s a deadly contradiction), it’s going to cost. Probably quite a lot. That’s all well and fine for big-theatre presentations, but you can’t do that for every poxy Board meeting and client meeting (when you’ve content that has to be heavily customised each time).

    But they’re still expecting PP in the meeting. And all you can think of, with that meeting looming, is essentially a Microsoft teleprompter style of thing.

    I’m baffled for an answer, and up for ideas.

    I hate PowerPoint.

  19. AnnHawkins
    AnnHawkins says:

    Idea one: If people are expecting PP in a meeting they’re probably also expecting to be bored or to get a copy of the slides afterwards so they don’t need to pay attention so why not surprise them (and delight them) by presenting hard facts, numbers etc in a handout but presenting everything else with the force of your personality. Buying decisions are emotional so figure out the emotion that you need to invoke and use storytelling, comparisons, illustrations or what ever is appropriate to get them hooked. (see http://jontorrens.co.uk/ for great ways to do this).
    Idea two: If you must use PP have a look at https://www.haikudeck.com/
    Prezi.com can be a stunning alternative but needs considerable skill to get it right (see http://www.jim-harvey.com/ for tips on using Prezi)

  20. Jon Torrens (@JonTorrens)
    Jon Torrens (@JonTorrens) says:

    ‘But they’re still expecting PP in the meeting’. Well, that’s a great opportunity to surprise them and deliver something they’ll remember.

    You’re informing and/or persuading, and you should be the medium. If there’s something that you can’t convey easily with spoken words, and a large projected image will do the job best, then bring up a suitable slide and once they’ve got it then switch the projector off (or go to a slide with your logo or a blank slide) . A prop, handout or role play with someone from the audience may be far more effective. That last example may sound awkward, but it’s engaging, and that’s your key objective. If there are few enough people, how about sitting down with the group around a table? Being conversational is a great style if you can do it.

    I like to have a Powerpoint slide with my logo on it to start with, and then not move to the next slide for at least five minutes. The audience soon realises that there’s no future in looking at the projected image, but the slide still provides a good backdrop, and allows me to point out that I’m not using it. However, that part of my presentation is a sarcastic comment on PP use, and I have no hard data to get across.

    If they want an information-packed PP printout to take home, then make one that suits that purpose, but for goodness’s sake don’t show it on the screen.

  21. Jon Green
    Jon Green says:

    Jon: in theory, theory is the same as practice. In practice, they differ.

    If a client’s asked me to put together a PP presentation for a sales meeting with a prospective customer, I don’t get the option to say, “You know what, I’ll just put up a personal introduction, and extemporise.” I can extemporise for Britain, if I know the subject well enough, but that’s no use to my client, if I’m not supposed to upstage the Big Boss. And handing the sales lead a single “This is me” slide, when we promised a presentation set, ain’t gonna cut it with anyone.

    Unfortunately, PP’s inveigled and insinuated itself into modern business practice, like a tumour wrapped around its brainstem (and with similar consequences, I fear).

    I hate PP with a passion – not least because I’ve never really trained to do any more with it than bullet-point slides, and wouldn’t have the first idea how (much less the motivation) to do something fancier. I quite like the look of the Mac OS presentation stuff, but again, don’t have the time to invest in learning it. I’d rather pick up a different technical skill I’m going to use for money, and pay someone else to curdle their brains getting intimate with PP.

    Ann: haikudeck looks interesting – thanks for the link. Don’t know how easy it would be to cruft a Haiku presentation into a corporate template, but it does at least give the viewers a spoonful of (visual) sugar, to help the medicine go down. I’ll have to take a look at Prezi, too. I get nervous about online-only tools, though: I don’t want to lose a sale 30 seconds after I lose the wi-fi. I’d feel happier if I could keep and present decks offline – but I’m not convinced that I’ll get VWM paying $159/yr for the privilege. Have to think about that one.

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