How Not to Use PowerPoint

I was just browsing 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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