How Not to Use PowerPoint

I was just browsing SlideShare.net and stumbled across an excellent set of slides called, “Death by PowerPoint” by Alexei Kapterev. (Click on the image below to watch it.) He talks about why so many PowerPoint presentations are so bad. More importantly, he teaches you what you can do to make your presentations stand out.

If you use PowerPoint (or Apple Keynote) to make your presentations, this is well-worth a careful look. If you want even more help, I recommend two sites. The first is Presentation Zen. This is Garr Reynold’s site and one of my personal favorites. He doesn’t post that often, but it is always worth the wait. He also has a book by the same title coming out in January. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and have already pre-ordered it.

Garr’s analysis of the difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as presenters is fascinating. He has written three posts on this topic and I learned important lessons in every one: Bill Gates and Visual Complexity, Gates, Jobs, and the Zen Aesthetic, and Learning from Bill Gates & Steve Jobs.

The second site I would recommend is Beyond Bullets. This is Cliff Atkinson’s site. The site is excellent, but make sure you drill down into all its component pieces. It’s a treasure trove of ideas, techniques, and tips. I am currently reading the new edition of his book, Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® 2007 to Creat Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire.

I read the first edition and liked it, but I don’t remember it having the same impact on me. This is by far the best book I have read on how to make truly great presentations. I have especially enjoyed his research on how the brain works and how we can use that information to inform how we speak and use slideware.

Finally, if you want to see the state of the art in powerful presentations, watch this video of How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law by Larry Lessig, a professor at Stanford. I was especially impressed by how the slides augmented his presentation but never dominated it. This is how presentations should—and can—be done. (Thanks to Garr Reynolds for bringing this presentation to my attention. You can read his comments about it here.)

Update: There is a section at the end of Larry Lessig’s presentation in which an actor playing Jesus sings “I Will Survive.” You may find this offensive, so consider yourself warned.

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  • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com Eric S. Mueller

    I just completed a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix. The curriculum there requires a presentation at the end of every class. Recently my office brought in an HR representative to give us a presentation on next year’s benefits. She literally broke every rule for giving a presentation. She used dark text on a dark background and read every slide word for word. It was a horrible way to spend an hour.

  • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    I just completed a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix. The curriculum there requires a presentation at the end of every class. Recently my office brought in an HR representative to give us a presentation on next year's benefits. She literally broke every rule for giving a presentation. She used dark text on a dark background and read every slide word for word. It was a horrible way to spend an hour.

  • http://www.michaelsampson.net/2007/11/enterprise-co-6.html Effective Collaboration: Michael Sampson on Being Effective with Collaboration

    Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams Report (November 13, 2007)

    The People Part of Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams “Teams of Practice” … Jessica and Jeff advocate for the recognition of a new organizational form … the “team of practice”. ” … perhaps the era of the community of practice

  • http://www.michaelsampson.net/2007/11/enterprise-co-6.html Effective Collaborat

    Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams Report (November 13, 2007)

    The People Part of Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams "Teams of Practice" … Jessica and Jeff advocate for the recognition of a new organizational form … the "team of practice". " … perhaps the era of the community of practice

  • http://historyandhope.com ML Eqatin

    Larry Lessig’s presentation was interesting. I would have liked to forward it to some friends, except that the remix of Jesus towards the end was borderline offensive. Is there any way to forward only part of one of these things?

  • Linda

    I think a lot of the people who use PowerPoint don’t really understand how to give speeches in the first place. When I was in the army, my first experience was a class I was attending. A soldier got handed a PowerPoint presentation at the last minute and was told to present it to us. He was not familiar with the material, nor did he bother to familiarize himself with it. The slides were text heavy, and he read off the slides without even understanding what he was reading. Needless to say, he didn’t have an interested audience.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    ML,

    I don’t think there’s a way to forward part of the video. One option would be to warn your friends and give a disclaimer (as I probably should have done here).

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://historyandhope.com/ ML Eqatin

    Larry Lessig's presentation was interesting. I would have liked to forward it to some friends, except that the remix of Jesus towards the end was borderline offensive. Is there any way to forward only part of one of these things?

  • Linda

    I think a lot of the people who use PowerPoint don't really understand how to give speeches in the first place. When I was in the army, my first experience was a class I was attending. A soldier got handed a PowerPoint presentation at the last minute and was told to present it to us. He was not familiar with the material, nor did he bother to familiarize himself with it. The slides were text heavy, and he read off the slides without even understanding what he was reading. Needless to say, he didn't have an interested audience.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    ML,

    I don't think there's a way to forward part of the video. One option would be to warn your friends and give a disclaimer (as I probably should have done here).

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://smpctryphys.wordpress.com/ Simple Country Physicist

    Stercus! Any presentation that is a sales pitch is worthless. The presentation is only as good as the information one walks away with. If the presentation contains no information it is worthless. If the presentation is bad, either by poor presence or by excessive inanity, then the presentation is worthless. The true test of a presentation is how long an audience member will preserve the take away.

  • http://smpctryphys.wordpress.com/ Simple Country Physi

    Stercus! Any presentation that is a sales pitch is worthless. The presentation is only as good as the information one walks away with. If the presentation contains no information it is worthless. If the presentation is bad, either by poor presence or by excessive inanity, then the presentation is worthless. The true test of a presentation is how long an audience member will preserve the take away.

  • http://zrpms.mine.nu Andrew

    Can we not use a trademarked product name so generically? You can give about the same multimedia slide presentation from Keynote, Openoffice.org Impress, Acrobat Reader, a desktop publishing program, etc. etc.

  • http://zrpms.mine.nu/ Andrew

    Can we not use a trademarked product name so generically? You can give about the same multimedia slide presentation from Keynote, Openoffice.org Impress, Acrobat Reader, a desktop publishing program, etc. etc.

  • Lori Oliver Moores

    Thank you for introducing me to Larry Lessig. I teach seventh graders to communicate in this world of theirs. I needed to watch and hear and absorb Lessig. Now I need to act. They would GET the Jesus clip, laugh, and not judge.

  • Lori Oliver Moores

    Thank you for introducing me to Larry Lessig. I teach seventh graders to communicate in this world of theirs. I needed to watch and hear and absorb Lessig. Now I need to act. They would GET the Jesus clip, laugh, and not judge.

  • Canes

    Thanks for sharing the slide. BTW, you need to learn how not to use web services aka snapshot sucks+annoying..

  • http://xhtml-css.com Karim

    Totally agree with you Canes!

  • Canes

    Thanks for sharing the slide. BTW, you need to learn how not to use web services aka snapshot sucks+annoying..

  • http://xhtml-css.com/ Karim

    Totally agree with you Canes!

  • john

    Love the suggestions, but please please please, don’t use those infernal “snap previews”. Not only are they horribly annoying to have to dodge while reading, but they serve no useful purpose. I know you can turn them off, but it uses a cookie, which always gets deleted, and then they’re back. I emplore you, and every other blogger, don’t use the damn things. There is nothing redeeming about them!

  • john

    Love the suggestions, but please please please, don't use those infernal "snap previews". Not only are they horribly annoying to have to dodge while reading, but they serve no useful purpose. I know you can turn them off, but it uses a cookie, which always gets deleted, and then they're back. I emplore you, and every other blogger, don't use the damn things. There is nothing redeeming about them!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    You’re right about the Snap Previews. I agree. I repent. I have now removed them!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    You're right about the Snap Previews. I agree. I repent. I have now removed them!

  • AR

    Typo: Recipient not Recepient.

  • AR

    Typo: Recipient not Recepient.

  • http://AnneBingham.com Anne Bingham

    Typo on Slide 55!

  • http://AnneBingham.com/ Anne Bingham

    Typo on Slide 55!

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  • Brad

    I just came across this. Great stuff as I am doing a presentation in a few weeks. Seth Godin also has some tips here. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/01/r

  • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

    I want to be reminded of this before I open a new PowerPoint document.  Every single time.

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