Avoid PowerPoint Hell / Death by PowerPoint: Designing Useful Presentations

death by powerpoint - web In higher education and the business world alike, PowerPoint is taking center stage in getting ideas across to large groups of people. Good presenters realize that PowerPoint is a useful tool (if used properly), which can both help and harm presentations. Bad presenters use PowerPoint as a crutch, to get their ideas across. The goal is to craft a set of slides that minimize information overload, do not distract the audience, and aid in getting points across. Generally, you want your slides to follow the following rules:

1) Keep it simple – unless you’re quoting someone, you probably don’t want sentences upon sentences of text. People should be primarily focused on what you’re saying – slides should not be a distraction, taking people away from the point you’re making. If anything, they should keep people on track.

2) Don’t write out what you’re going to say – slides that have written out exactly what you’re going to say are *useless*. Give people a handout if you must, but don’t have your entire speech on the slides. Use examples to bring out the points on your slides. Presentations should be a conversation with your audience, not a monologue.

3) Bullet points are only moderately useful – use them sparingly – the longer the list, the smaller the font and the less likely people will derive benefit from what your slides have to say. Keywords and short phrases are a superior way to go. Given the idea of Miller’s number, 5 – 7 points per slide is probably the limit you should aim for.

4) Images are useful in moderation (combining text / images / audio / video will help get your points across). Good tools should be used in moderation when dealing with PowerPoint- images are useful, as long as they are meaningful, relate to what you say, and don’t distract the audience from what you’re discussing. Combining senses (visual and audio) can improve learning (John Medina – Brain Rules).

5) The colour scheme should be appealing to the eye – you don’t want to make your slides hard to read.

The difference between a good and a bad presentation is fairly obvious – keep your audience on track, don’t bore them, and don’t blind them with PowerPoint. Minimalism in PowerPoint, always.


Header image courtesy of – Nick Hodge – Death by PowerPoint


Author: sylint

I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

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