Skillset New Zealand Blog

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It's the worst use of PowerPoint I've seen - so bad it was funny. 

It was a lecture in a large auditorium.  An audience of around 200.

The auditorium was very dimly lit (someone had told the technician that it was to be a PowerPoint presentation). The presenter was off to one side of the stage with no lighting at all. And she was in front of black curtains. You could see her shape and outline, but not her expression, eyes or mouth. She was essentially speaking out of the dark. There was only one thing lit up in that auditorium: a huge screen, very bright, totally dominating the space and the audience.

Right away, I knew this presentation would be hard work. Add the other things that happened and it was like getting in a car with flat tyres.  Here's why. Here are some of the big DONT-DO-IT's of PowerPoint.

  • It was an effort to see the presenter. That automatically reduces the impact of the message, even if the PowerPoint is well designed.

It wasn't.

  • Each slide - a fixed image - occupied the screen between 5 and 10 minutes. Each one lost our visual interest within seconds. So we looked for the presenter. But we couldn't see her properly, so back to the bright, now boring screen.
  • Her words constantly strayed from the immediate message on the screen. Which means that our ears and eyes were getting different messages. That blurs focus. That fragments our thoughts. No wonder audiences slip into PowerPoint comas.
  • The PowerPoint never stopped. It was wall-to-wall. The presenter, like many others, thought that a presentation is PowerPoint, with voice thrown in. 
  • Her body language invited us to look at her (see the link PowerPoint Tip 1, just below) . But the screen was lit up with slides. Where were we supposed to look? That too is a mistake made by many others.

By many, many others. And there lies the tragedy behind that comically bad presentation. You would think, for example, that being able to see the presenter is a no-brainer. And yet, in that audience not one person objected or asked for better lighting on the speaker. A whole generation has become so accustomed to bad PowerPoint that most of us think it's normal. The standard of presentations has plummeted since the arrival of PowerPoint, even though it's a wonderful tool when used well.

Enough on the negatives.

Would you like to know how to use PowerPoint well? Go to my blog series on PowerPoint. You might, for example, like to start with PowerPoint: How to use mindfulness to focus audience attention  OR PowerPoint Tip 1: The answer lies in the feet. OR  PowerPoint Tip 10: Insert a 'sleep slide'.   

FYI... I did get some value from the presentation. That's because I was so interested in the topic, I made myself put up with the PowerPoint roadblocks. It was a teeth-gritting effort.