PowerPoint - the good, the bad, and the hope...

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | Posted by David M. Weil |

PowerPoint is the defacto standard for presentations in business and education. Each day over 3 million PPT talks are delivered worldwide. Unfortunately the vast majority of these presentations follow a mundane and ineffective formula of lists of bulleted text and/or overly complex charts and graphs.

Are we eternally doomed to boredom, by colleagues, marketers and teachers reading their bullet lists to us?

There is hope, but rethinking PowerPoint and how to use it, requires undoing of years of indoctrination that without words; lots of words, your presentation will lack substance or validity. In reality, you can create very engaging presentations that are enjoyable both as audience and presenter.

My vision for improving such presentations is to give audiences a reprieve from "death by bullet points" by making presentations much more focused on a storytelling approach, supported by simple image-oriented visuals. It's not easy to get out of the text mindset, but once you do, creativity often begins to flow. By focusing on a few key messages, supported by photography and/or video, refined by rehearsals and simplification, you can create and deliver high-impact presentations.

There are several pundits of this school of thought, including Gar Reynolds in Japan, whose blog Presentation Zen is quite inspirational. Others include Cliff Atkinson, Guy Kawasaki, Dan Pink and Edward Tufte.

There are good presentations and presenters out there. Perhaps the best collection is TED.com which stands for technology, entertainment and design. Another good resource is Alexi Kapterev's Death by PowerPoint slideshow. These individuals and websites should give you a sense of how you can become a more convincing and effective presenter, regardless of whether you are an educator, salesperson, scientist, lawyer, business person or politician.

Here's my offer to help move you along the continuum of effective communication. Send me your PPT, and I will give you a free 5-minute critique, with recommendations. I've never seen a PowerPoint talk that couldn't be improved, even my own.



  1. Jenna Ream said...
  2. David, your post is inspiring! I have avoided powerpoint and sought other options- perhaps to a fault. Recently I began to explore the audio options, but still find myself falling into old patterns... text heavy slides, words, words, words. I have moved towards Voicethread and other image sharing resources and have dismissed powerpoint altogether. You make me think! Maybe it is not all or nothing. I am excited to talk about this and perhaps re-identify value in powerpoint as a vehicle to communicate and facilitate thought and conversation. I always think tools are just that- the vehicle for information. There are no good or bad tools, just good or bad use. Hmmmm... perhaps I have dismissed this tool too soon...

  3. Joni Dunlap said...
  4. My students have recently created very nice presentations (more like digital stories) using PowerPoint with audio. They were inspired by Nancy Duarte's book slide:ology...a book I highly recommend. They have also been exploring the Pecha Kucha format...that also pushes one to think about how to use PowerPoint differently...maybe even better.

    Forgive the self-promotion, but I have written about this quite a lot in my blog...if you are interested, please see http://thoughtsonteaching-jdunlap.blogspot.com/search/label/Presentations


  5. hilde said...
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.
  7. Jenna Ream said...
  8. Great conversation, David! I wanted to add the link that you shared in the end of that talk from Robin Good about presentations so everyone can access it. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Jenna Ream said...
  10. ooops... Posted too quickly. This link is for guidelines: www.augustcouncil.com/~jdunlap/blog/teamworkGuidelinesFLC.pdf to access (thanks Joni!)

    Here is the Robin Good link: http://connect.ucdenver.edu/goodcharts

Post a Comment