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  • Writer's pictureAlan Shoebridge

PowerPoint hate is misplaced: 4 reasons why it works

I generally avoid posting controversial subjects on LinkedIn, relying on Facebook – and sometimes Twitter – as places to vent. However, that changes today with this statement: PowerPoint is not evil. In fact, I like PowerPoint. There, I said it. Before you judge me too harshly, let me make my case.

Now, embracing PowerPoint doesn’t mean I enjoyed all the presentations that I’ve sat through during my professional career. Far from it. Like most tools, the value of the end product depends on the proficiency of the user. In the right hands, a PowerPoint deck can be informative and helpful. In the wrong hands, you’ll likely be exposed to microscopic fonts and slides crammed with way too much information, and in the worst case scenario end up suffering from “PowerPoint poisoning,” a term Scott Adams brilliantly coined in Dilbert.

The ability to tailor your content to the audience. For most of us, when creating a presentation we’re likely to be addressing an audience of between 2 and 100 people with the purpose of educating them about a specific topic. In these situations, slides with relevant, bulleted content are totally appropriate. If you’re speaking to a room of 500 and trying to convey emotion and inspiration, avoid multiple slides with lots of bullets at all costs. Stick to images, videos or other content. For those situations, you don’t need people to remember every fact.

You can create a valuable leave-behind resource for your audience. When you present at a conference, the organizers often make your content available to attendees. If your slides have no useful content, they are not valuable as a learning resource. You could create a separate deck or Word document, but that would be a lot of extra work. A better bet is to aim for a balance between nice visuals and relevant content when you are presenting as part of a learning session, not a keynote speech.

It’s easy to use and almost everyone has it. I know there are fancier presentation modules available, but PowerPoint's ease of use is hard to beat. Online, offline, whatever. It just works. I’ve probably given more than 100 presentations without ever experiencing a software failure.

There is a wealth of online advice available.

Here are two good resources with advice on the software and your presentation style:

Pro tip from the article:

“Write a script. A little planning goes a long way. Most presentations are written in PowerPoint (or some other presentation package) without any sort of rhyme or reason. That’s bass-ackwards. Since the point of your slides is to illustrate and expand what you are going to say to your audience, you should know what you intend to say and then figure out how to visualize it. Unless you are an expert at improvising, make sure you write out or at least outline your presentation before trying to put together slides.

And make sure your script follows good storytelling conventions: give it a beginning, middle, and end; have a clear arc that builds towards some sort of climax; make your audience appreciate each slide but be anxious to find out what’s next; and when possible, always leave ‘em wanting more.”

Pro tip from the article:

“Spend time in the slide sorter: According to the Segmentation Principle of multimedia learning theory, people comprehend better when information is presented in small chunks or segments. By getting out of the Slide View and into the Slide Sorter view, you can see how the logical flow of your presentation is progressing. In this view you may decide to break up one slide into, say, two-three slides so that your presentation has a more natural and logical flow or process. In this view you will be able to capture more of the gestalt of your entire presentation from the point of view of your audience. You will be able to notice more extraneous pieces of visual data that can be removed to increase visual clarity and improve communication.”

Did I make my case?

Although PowerPoint has its critics (many, many, critics), I feel like it all circles back to the user. When you keep your featured content simple, relevant and useful, PowerPoint is a great option for presentations and sharing information. If I still haven’t convinced you that PowerPoint isn't evil and never will, here is another excellent Dilbert cartoon poking fun at PowerPoint that will make your day.

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