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Death by Coconut

We hear a lot about “Death by PowerPoint” (a business phenomenon caused by poor design and delivery of slides). However, in the last 50 years, there are more documented deaths (8) that occurred from coconuts falling from trees and striking people on the head, than people dying during a PowerPoint presentation (0). Maybe we should call it “Boredom by PowerPoint.” It is estimated that every second 350 PowerPoint presentations are given; most are boring and incorporate the ‘show up and throw up approach’ with endless, wordy slides.

Why does this happen?

First, some people blame the culture of their organization saying management wants all the information on the slides. One company we work with limited presenters to three slides, in an attempt to reduce the reliance on PowerPoint. This restriction resulted in presenters shrinking four mini-slides on to one slide, making the problem even worse.

Second, some people don’t know the difference between PowerPoint and Word. Slides are slides. Documents are documents. They aren’t the same.  Garr Reynolds, author and internationally acclaimed communications expert, calls the attempt to merge the two a Slideument.

What is the solution?

The downside to using slides as visual aids is that most people break the basic rules of constructing effective slides. One solution is to understand how PowerPoint assists your message. Your slides should support, not distract, from the purpose of your presentation. Instead of putting everything you are going to say on a slide, you could use the notes feature of PowerPoint, use the hidden slide feature, or use a Word document handout.

The adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” could be an answer. Use more pictures and fewer words on your slides. This will allow your audience to focus on the speaker describing the image, instead of listening to the presenter reading the text on their slides.

Another possible solution is to stop using PowerPoint all together. This works for Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Instead of PowerPoint slides from the presenter, each speaker provides a typed document of text. After the audience has a chance to read the document in silence, the presentation and discussion begins!

Commit to dedicating time to the preparation and development of the message before you create your first slide. We don’t want to ruin our perfect record of zero actual deaths by PowerPoint!


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  • rpeterson32

    Posted on 01.29.2015


    Nice tips from @KevinKarschnik on #VisualAids

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