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Top 10 Reasons to Dump PowerPoint

Jun 29, 2011
By

Robert McGarvey






Do you want to know what your boss thinks when you plug in and begin to show a PowerPoint to persuade him to up your budget, approve your initiatives, and in general give you what you need? "Oh no, not another stinking PowerPoint!"

"PowerPoint creates presentations that just are no longer appropriate," said Diane Gayeski, dean of the school of communications at Ithaca College. Her point is when you genuinely want to communicate, PowerPoint is not the tool you want; definitely not for persuading CEOs.

Death by PowerPoint is no joke; not when it is your presentation that is winning the negative reactions.


Need more convincing?

Here are the Top 10 reasons to dump PowerPoint, effective immediately:

No. 1 - It trains the audience not to take notes, maybe not even to pay attention -- "Email me the deck, will you?" Will they in fact watch it later? You know that answer already. Said presentation pro Clark Mackey: "People who take notes remember the material better than those who don't." And people who actually watch shows remember them much better than those who do not.

No. 2 - Likewise, PowerPoint trains the presenter to be lazy. Many do no rehearsals. Why bother since they simply will read the PowerPoint slides? But this is a formula for a boring show. Somewhere, PowerPoint became a crutch that propped up every nervous, ill-prepared presenter and the pay-off is the widespread dread of PowerPoint.

No. 3 - The very architecture of PowerPoint boxes the presenter into "working, designing, thinking in a certain way," said Ari Kissiloff, assistant professor, department of strategic communication at Ithaca College. There is a kind of built-in sameness to many PowerPoints, which also makes them easier to ignore.

No. 4 - "PowerPoint can't create a sense of urgency: Most PowerPoints are filled with numbers and graphs; lots of data and logic, which aren't enough to grab people's attention and get them excited about what you're presenting," said John Kotter, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School.

No. 5 - Kotter twisted this knife deeper: "PowerPoint presentations achieve nothing: Most are incomprehensible, end up sitting on shelves somewhere, and cost a lot of time and money to produce."

No. 6 - Many PowerPoint creators batter the audience with a landslide of just bad slides. Professional presenter Mark Grimm elaborated on some common errors: "Filling a slide with small text from a page from a book or from a webpage; the slide is too crowded." How often have you been unable to actually see the tiny text crammed into a PowerPoint slide? And the point of those slides is what?

No. 7 - It's not just CEOs and CFOs for whom PowerPoint is a bad match. "It does not work at all with young people," said Gayeski. Use PowerPoint to light a fire under a Gen Y workforce and all they will see is smoke. "They are non-linear in thought processes. PowerPoint is very linear," said Gayeski. "It does not work with them at all."

No. 8 - There are plenty of much better, slicker, more powerful presentation tools now on the market, said Michael Zipursky, co-founder of Business Consulting Buzz, who pointed to SlideRocket.com and Prezi.com com as prime cases in point. You are not stuck with PowerPoint there are better alternatives. Today's PowerPoint is little changed from its 1997 edition. Would you use a 1997 cell phone?

No. 9 - That said, a terrific alternative is PowerPoint itself, used properly. Andrew Marshall, a PowerPoint pro with Campus Apartments, tells how. "Delete all your slides with text. Concentrate on using graphics as a backdrop for your presentation, not the focus. Move the text slides to your notes so you can still read them if you must." That is, generate slides designed to excite and engage the audience and that probably means dramatic visuals. Reinvent PowerPoint and it may be good enough.

No. 10 - Just maybe the coolest PowerPoint alternative is to go naked: "Don't forget the ultimate presentation ploy. When everyone else is using PowerPoint, sometimes the best way to get noticed is to not use any presentation at all. Everyone will be wondering "Where are the slides?" and they'll end up paying attention to what you have to say," said Jim Anderson of Blue Elephant Consulting.

Robert McGarvey - As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation's leading publications―from Reader's Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain's New York, and Fortune Magazine.


 

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