Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that there will be a different result is the definition of insanity

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 06.59.54I was working with a group of engineers recently – intelligent, friendly and committed bunch and we got to talking about PowerPoint.  In a short space of time and with much laughter and reference to people in the company, the group had quickly come up with a list of ‘hates’ about PowerPoint – list of bullet points, standard templates, too much information, too small font to name a few.  And yet significantly when we looked at a range of sample slides the best ones were declared to be the ones with lists of bullet pointed sentences.  Why should this be the case?

I think there are 4 reasons for this seemingly insanity.

#1 in some organisations and certainly some industries PP slides are produced as a take away reference document not just as a slideshow. This will never work.  What you need to design to be taken away and read at a later point is not going to work when projected on a screen and vice versa. The purpose of the slideshow is different to the purpose of the reference document.  Trying to achieve both purposes with one activity will mean you will do neither very well.  And you will end up with useless reference materials and interminably dull slides which detract from the main message.

#2. One chap very honestly said that in his view it was very important to have detailed information because that way people would understand more and he would be more credible. He is right to think about the amount and level of content certainly but wrong to think that it all has to go on a slide. The presenter is the one who is explaining, emphasising, guiding, clarifying and persuading. The slides should support, NOT say the same thing. And it is the presenter who needs to claim the credibility not the slides!

#3.  People know ‘Death by PowerPoint’ doesn’t work but they don’t always know how to break out of the pattern. Certainly in day to day business credible, inspiring and successful alternatives are far and few between. We’re stuck in a rut.

#4. If pressed people will often admit that the reason so much ‘verbal’ information is on the screen is so they don’t forget what to say. It is a verbal prompt for them rather that a visual aid or stimulus for the audience. It is representative of their own lack of confidence or faith in their ability to deliver.

Some suggestions?


  1. Use a separate note system based on prompts not scripts ( I have developed a Pathway PlannerTM) for exactly this purpose which I share with attendees on my workshops)
  2. Create separate take away/reference notes.
  3. Think VISUAL – no/few words.  Pictures, photographs, graphs and charts
  4. Be a trailblazer.  Make your presentation the one people remember – not because of the slides but because of the content delivered powerfully by YOU!


I would love to hear your comments on your experiences of PowerPoint or any questions you might have.  Please post below.

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