Why you’ll never write a presentation around PowerPoint slides again

Updated January 22nd, 2020. I don’t think there can be many people in the digitized world who don’t hate the way that many presenters stick incredibly complex PowerPoint slides up and then just read them out.

How many more words could you get on this PowerPoint slide?

Of course in some ways that’s helpful, because were the presenter not to read out each slide’s content, people sitting more than a few feet away wouldn’t stand a snowflake’s chance in hell of comprehending it because the type is so small. But is this really the best way to communicate important information?

Speaking as someone who grew up in the business theater world pre-digitization (in other words when we used animated multi-image 35mm still film slides as visualization of spoken presentations) I was taught always to write scripts for speakers that used the slides in a way that was complementary to the spoken words and added to their impact…not just mushing along as a series of electronically contrived idiot boards.

PowerPoint, however, effectively has encouraged speakers to use these slides as a crutch and avert real affinity with their audiences.

In my current (non HTWB) work activities within elements of the British public sector, over and over again I watch presentations that follow exactly the pattern I’ve just described. Not only is it boring; also, its sheer “boringness” means that important messages are likely not to be absorbed well by the audiences concerned. And that’s where real trouble can set in.

Does this ring a bell with you?

Here is a video done by a Canadian “corporate comedian” (we Canadians just get it right, OK?) called Don McMillan, as shared with me by a fellow blogger, Paul M Johnstone (thanks. Paul!)

To me, this says it all. Enjoy, and take heed … McMillan may make us laugh but there is sooo much truth in what he says…

Thanks again to Paul Johnstone for bringing this to our attention.

Are you a PowerPoint junkie, or do you agree that it can absolve speakers from actually having to connect with their audiences? Share your views here please…

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  1. Don’s vid is a good one – I’ve been pointing people to it for years. (I just wish he’d managed to stand in is own spotlight!). BTW, the full version is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORxFwBR4smE

    Does anyone else find it ironic that to create this set of slides Don has actually better at using PowerPoint that almost every other presenter on the planet! πŸ™‚

    • LOL Simon … you’re right, that is a funny irony! Glad you agree that Don’s video is good – I love it. So, so, true…and we can learn so much from it, too.

  2. Sarah Arrow says

    I am currently recording a series of ppt videos. I have foUnd the best way to stop people reading on screen is to record the audio onto blank templates then add the images and text. Creates a more valuable video that way

    • Good idea for presentations with recorded audio, Sarah – thanks for sharing! Where the problem really gets serious, however, is in live presentations where the speaker stands in front of his/her laptop and reads out, word for word, what the audience can see projected up on the screen. That is just such a waste of effort!

      In the case of some of the medical presentations I see, I suppose it could be a safe way for speakers to stay on track – and when audience members get or view a copy of the slides afterwards, they have every bit of information there rather than having to remember what the speaker said, or take notes during the talk.

      But surely there can be nothing more depressing and boring than the same approach when used for live presentations in, say, marketing or motivation…ZZZzzzzzz….

  3. Brilliant video – love it. And absolutely agree 100%!

  4. If possible, I like to just use images on PowerPoint slides which can add to or illsutrate what the presenter is saying, rather than saying it for them.

    • That’s absolutely the right way to use PP slides, Jane. There’s no point telling people what they can already see, unless you’re giving out technical or scientific information … but in that case, why not just circulate a document and not bother reading it out from the slides to an audience!

  5. I get very cranky when forced to sit in a presentation where the speaker is reading every word on the slides or from the handout. Thank heaven for my iPhone so at least I can check e-mail or get some work done.

  6. Love the video! Useful points.

  7. Hi Suze

    Not a powerpoint fan at all! Unfortunately some places I have been have demanded it – seen as important part of a presentation… it’s always then on old equipment, people moaning they can’t see it…. always makes me laugh!

    • Some PP slides are hilarious, aren’t they, Anita? Crammed so full of information that you couldn’t possibly read it even if you were standing one metre from the screen…

  8. Here’s a reverse side of the coin… πŸ˜‰

    I remember doing seminar presentations and using PowerPoint when I worked for a B2B advertising agency. There’d be a team of us each doing our ‘bit’ – the CEO, an Account Director, a Creative Director and me. On one particular occasion the Creative Director was “way too busy” to attend rehearsals so the first time anybody saw his bit was when we went “live” at the first of a series of three seminars.

    His slides were so creative they practically took off. Unfortunately they obviously didn’t provide him enough of a clue as to what he should be saying, he hadn’t rehearsed enough (if at all) and he stumbled and stuttered through the whole thing… πŸ™

  9. Thanks for this, Suze, I enjoyed Don McMillan’s video.

    The first time I used PowerPoint in a presentation was during my teacher training and I think I, and most of the other trainees in my group, made many of the mistakes demonstrated in the video – those presentations must have been deathly boring for our teachers to sit through πŸ™‚

  10. I’m a big fan of what most would call “corny or nerdy” jokes, so the video was great, lol. Thanks for sharing.

    Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of being in business with excellent presentations. Lucky for me. I haven’t been exposed to death by Powerpoint since high school… when EVERYONE used boring bullet points and too much info stuffed on one slide.

    The shameful part is that way too many professionals still use those same elementary practices. That don’t work and that bore audiences to death.

    Thanks for writing about it and offering some help. Great insight.


  11. Most people had literally misunderstood the purpose of PowerPoint slides. As said in this blog, people tend to read what is written to their slides. Some uses PowerPoint slides for them not to get lost in whatever they will explain. What they don’t get is the fact that when you present, you should stand in front, confident that you know very well your topic. You know it too well that you can discuss it without your PowerPoint slides. Remember, your slides are there for your audience. It is a tool that will help your audience follow your discussion. If you want your audience to listen to you, do not put everything on your slides because if you do, they will just read it and totally ignore your existence. Do your audience like reading your slides? of course not. As said in this blog, audience get bored when they do.

    • Thanks Mark – I wish everyone who uses PowerPoint slides could read what you have written in this comment! Great to see you here, and please come back again soon.