Stop Making Bad PowerPoint Presentations

Why, then, are so many presentations bad?”

A similar question is the lead-in for many books and articles discussing how to give presentations. I think it generally comes down to a lack of education, a lack of training. Many people are simply told, “you need to give a presentation on Friday, no more than X slides.”  It’s late Wednesday afternoon, you click on the never-before-used PowerPoint (or Keynote) icon, and start typing stuff in.

Giving effective presentations is not something done successfully, just like any other activity, without preparation and forethought. The problem is, whatever training most folks receive, falls into the ‘bland, one shoe fits all’ type category. I’ve been there, I have the t-shirt (or ppt template).

So when I encounter ‘generic’ guidance in articles, it sticks out to me. Popular ‘generic’ guidance, which I disagree with when treated as ‘the answer,’ looks like:

Follow the 10-20-30 rule:

  • Use no more than 10 slides.
  • Speak for no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Use a 30-point font for your slides.

This is right up there with the worst of any corporate training I’ve received. It gives no consideration for the content, the message you need to deliver, or the audience.  You may as well run down the list with things like: Only 5-7 bullets per slide; Make sure the company logo’s on every slide; Stick to the theme we give you and never vary; No black text on blue backgrounds.

I’ve written a number of articles on public speaking myself. In “15 Ways You Can Be a Better Speaker”, in contrast with the 10/20/30 notion, I suggest these:

  • One. Idea. Per. Slide. Period.
  • Avoid Bullet Points
    Whenever possible (see previous item).
  • No one really cares how many slides you have. (See previous, previous point)
    Unless your presentation sucks.

Above all, study the topic, read some books. There are a number of good ones out there!

The Naked Presenter – Garr Reynolds
ISBN-10:  0-321-70445-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-321-70445-0

Resonate – Nancy Duarte
ISBN: 978-0-470-63201-7

Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds
ISBN: 9780321601896, 0321601890