I was working with a group of engineers recently – an intelligent, friendly and committed bunch and we got to talking about PowerPoint.

In a short 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 –

a list of bullet points,

standard templates,

too much information,

too small font

the speaker reads from the slide with their back to the audience


to name a few.

Would you agree?

And yet significantly, when we looked at a range of sample slides, the best ones were declared to be the ones with lists of many bullet-pointed sentences. Why should this be the case?

There are four reasons for this seeming insanity.

#1 Reference Documents

In some organisations and in certain industries, PowerPoint slides are produced as a takeaway reference document, not just as a slideshow.

This will never work.

What you need to design to be taken away and read later will not work when projected on a screen and vice versa. The purpose of the slideshow differs from 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. Credibility

One chap very honestly said that it was essential 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 explains, emphasises, guides, clarifies and persuades. The slides should support, NOT say the same thing.

And it is the presenter who needs to claim credibility, not the slides!

#3. Stuck in a Rut

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 few and far between. We’re stuck in a rut.

#4. Crutch

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 than a visual aid or stimulus for the audience. It represents their 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 Planner for exactly this purpose which I share with attendees at my workshops and in my coaching. Message me if you’d like to set eyes on one))
  2. Create separate takeaway/reference notes.
  3. Think VISUAL – no/few words. Pictures, photographs, graphs and charts

And above all…

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 with PowerPoint or any questions you might have. Please post below.