PowerPoint – is it really the loaded AK47?

“Using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table: You can do very bad things with it.”

Peter Norvig (Google Inc)

Power Corrupts…..
PowerPoint can be the perfect tool to help you get your message across. However you need to be supremely confident as a presenter to use it well. Too many people hide behind it to conceal their self consciousness or lack of knowledge of their subject. US Navy Secretary Richard Danzig has said of many Powerpoint presentations at the Pentagon,

“The idea behind most of these briefings is for us to sit through 100 slides with our eyes glazed over, and then to do what all military organizations hope for … to surrender to an overwhelming mass.”

If you decide to use it (and you don’t have to), you need to make every slide count.

………….PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely!

  • Presentations are about communication. Come forward from the screen and make sure that your audience focuses on you most of the time. So when their eyes flick to the screen it is only for a few moments.
  • Know your technology. Get there ahead of time to set up your laptop and make sure it works. Obvious I know, though I bet you, like me, have been kept waiting plenty of times while the presenter messed around with the equipment.
  • Show not tell! Use your slides to illustrate, not just dully repeat your message. You can give me graphs and statistics, then show me pictures that have some emotional content. Every time I think of what you say, the image will pop into my mind. You have activated both sides of my brain and kept me engaged.
  • Seth Godin (author of “Purple Cow”) in his ebook “Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)”,says only have a maximum of 6 words per slide.
  • Why do you read aloud from the screen when we are perfectly capable of reading ourselves? We are your audience. Please look at us! Talk to us! We want to engage with you!
  • Learn your presentation – or else have a few cue cards so you don’t need to look at the screen. Rehearse and rehearse beforehand. It makes you credible – you obviously know what you are talking about.
  • Avoid a busy looking slide behind you – it can distract and confuse. Especially, have the courage to have a blank screen behind you every so often while you talk.
  • Tell a story. Stories are powerfully effective ways of getting a message across without preaching. Each slide then becomes a chapter heading in the story.
  • Avoid distributing any documents or summaries until after your presentation (too much distracting rustling). And be careful not to just give a printout of your PowerPoint. It looks tacky and lazy.
  • There is a danger that PowerPoint can just look like a sales pitch. The format becomes more important than your content. So, be careful of bullet points. They can distance you from your listeners as well as being a set of lists. Boring.

“If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.” Edward Tufte (from “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”)

Have a read of Seth Godin’s ebook “Really Bad PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)” – well worthwhile.


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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