Your PowerPoint Sucks

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Dan Zarrella
Dan Zarrella



It seems like everyone hates PowerPoint these days. From the US army to the president's own infographics guru Edward Tufte , the message seems clear: "Powerpoint sucks." And we've all been stuck in a dark conference room, sometime after lunch, drilled into a coma by a monotone speaker dryly reading his own slides at us. It's easy to hate Powerpoint.

Death by PowerPoint? More like death by bullet point.

But it's not the applications fault, it's ours. The real issue is that our usage of PowerPoint sucks. To understand why, we first have to understand a key difference between two common desktop applications: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Powerpoint . Oddly enough they are, in fact, different applications and they should be used as such.

This past week I spent an enlightening day at Duarte's Slide:ology workshop, Boston Roadshow edition . And this was one my key takeaways from it.

Word is for documents. Want to write a letter or a list of ideas? Use Word. Trying to persuade a live audience why your new widget is the best widget ever? Use Powerpoint. See the difference? Presentations are not documents.

Some of the first, and still best, pieces of advice about PPT usage I've ever heard or read came from Guy Kawasaki as part of his 10/20/30 rule : Don't use any font size lower than 30 pt. Sticking to that one simple rule will do wonders to keep your Powerpoints from getting too bad.

Remember that your audience can read your slides faster, than you can say them, so you should never find yourself reading your slides to your audience .

Duarte began the section of the workshop on design by pointing out that there's one, underused slide template (in my opinion the only one you should ever be using): the blank slide. Ignore PPT's demand for bullets and text.

Duarte also recommended thinking in a more cinematic way about presentations and decks, planning scenes and acts . In fact one of the exercises we did involved planning a presentation with stick notes on a storyboard layout, something you'd never do for a flat document.

You don't need a logo at the bottom of every slide . If your audience doesn't remember who's presenting you have much bigger problems. Your brand can be much more effectively conveyed with font, color, mood and photography choices than the same logo, over and over and over again.

If you're stuck for inspiration on how to make PPT beautiful, here's a great gallery of gorgeous slide decks (although many of them use bullets, so view them as visual design examples).

Now, I want to hear your best PowerPoint tips.

Topics: Presentations

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