PowerPoint at 11:00
The drama unfolded in a quiet meeting room. As an audience, we sat silently in rows of modest chairs, as the presenter moved unassumingly toward the front of the room…almost lurking. He glanced awkwardly at his watch, fumbled briefly with the data projector remote and then it happened.
WARNING: What happened next is graphic in nature and may contain information that could be uncomfortable and all too familiar for some readers.
The first slide rang out with a series of popping sounds, followed by more slides all with a hail of bulleted text…there were bullets flying everywhere. My first reaction was to shout out to innocent bystanders in the meeting room.
GET DOWN!…get down everyone…save yourselves from the armor piercing software induced images appearing so rapidly that I finally lost count of all the text bullets sprayed into the audience.
I found courage and moved out from beneath the table I ducked under to avoid the bullets. There were numerous casualties. Some audience members were sitting cross armed and feigning attention all the while fighting back the urge of a restful nap in anticipation of this tragic event coming to an end. Others were seemingly gasping for air as they yawned uncontrollably. Others were simply in shock as they rolled their eyes and squirmed in their seats. Some were simply muttering indistinguishable words under their breath.
Luckily the armed presenter had a change of heart early on in this ominous event. He must have.
I watched him turn almost stoically, ever so slowly toward the screen and face directly into the path of the flurry of bulleted text as he read word after word after word on each slide. We couldn’t tell if he was in pain as we could only see his back for the rest of the presentation. How brave he must have been to save the rest of us from the hail of bullets.
The presenter survived, but the presentation was pronounced as lifeless by the coroner at the scene. Too bad…he didn’t have a chance is what I overheard.
When officials finally arrived …well actually they came to serve break refreshments and many of us exchanged our version of the events and prepared our statements for the pending presentation investigation.
The scene I’ve just portrayed was prompted by many readers that have asked me for my opinion on the use of PowerPoint in delivering presentations.
Now it’s time for my infamous Presentation Rant. Give me a Break!
PowerPoint in my opinion takes a bad rap. I’ve heard audiences groan prior to a presentation, ‘oh no, not another boring PowerPoint presentation’. Since when did software get a mind of it’s own? So I thought I’d test the theory. I sat with my eyes glued to a blank PowerPoint slide I opened on my computer…and waited. After waiting several minutes, waiting for rows of bulleted text to magically appear…nothing. I glanced around to see if anyone was watching and I hit a couple of keys, and poof the evidence of my keystrokes appeared. With that my experiment debunks the myth of PowerPoint having a mind of its own. I’m not a crime scene investigator but something tells me the presenters appear to be the prime suspects in serial PowerPoint offences.
PowerPoint is a marvelous medium and a powerful presentation tool. My proviso, when it’s used with respect for its presentation power. It can also be as dangerous as an automatic weapon in the wrong hands….see story scene above. Point made.
The scene I‘ve portrayed is not uncommon. I have been witness to that scene too often to mention. It happens in the workplace and other presentation situations almost daily worldwide. This costs money, time and resources for major corporations and entrepreneurs alike and all too often.
Stop! …if you find yourself saying ‘lock and load’ when creating bullet points on slides.
Remember, a bullet point is just that…a portion or context for information you will detail with narrative. I’ve even seen bullet points with punctuation at the end. Here I go again… Give me a Break!
Save the punctuation for complete sentences. Save the sentences for your next novel. Once sentences appear row after row on slides in your presentation …there appears the presenters trap! The trap of reading from the slides and worse yet if they are sentences…many presenters recite them to their audience like a soliloquy. I’ll bet audiences welcome any opportunity to brush up on their reading skills.
The Presenters Trap: Reading word for word from slides is a demonstration of an amateur presenter.
Opinion varies as to how many lines or bullets or even words per bullet should appear on slides. I’ve heard the 5 by 5 or the 3 by 5 opinions, 5 by 5 being a maximum of 5 bullet points and a maximum of 5 words per bullet point per slide. As a PowerPoint minimalist at heart, even those guidelines are lenient for my liking. Firstly I don’t think in terms of bullets…the software does…it even defaults to bullets. A 45 minute presentation I deliver regularly has only 5 slides and each slide has 3 or 4 words per slides and not a bullet to be found. As a presenter only you can deliver the message the way you can not your software application. My question, do you need to use any bulleted text at all?
Thoughts first – then decide format, whether bullets, text or digital imagery
It’s time to take a stand…repeat after me…PowerPoint should be used for GOOD…not for EVIL. Repeat this mantra as required.
My presentation coaching practice regularly has me reviewing PowerPoint presentations. How do I put this…sometimes I find it painful to review the presentations I receive as I put myself in the audience position and what I would feel as an innocent victim to excessive bulleted text.
TIP: Make PowerPoint your Friend – Not your Foe
Finally, for your next presentation, deliver it with power, passion and a PowerPoint masterpiece. Make it count!
…this time without leaving a body count.
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Richard Peterson, North America’s Presentation Coach™