We Are Not the PowerPoint Police

January 12, 2015 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation, Training

PowerPointPoliceBannerPeople often ask us about the rules for PowerPoint. Some examples include, “What’s the rule for …

  • the number of bullets on a slide?”
  • the number of words per bullet?”
  • the number of slides a presentation should have?”
  • the right font to use?”
  • the right size font to use?”

We also hear apologies like these:

  • “I know this is a lousy slide, but I didn’t have time to fix it.”
  • “You’re going to hate this slide, but my manager requires this format.”
  • “Sorry this is such a busy slide, but …”

Our response is always this:

Relax. We’re not the PowerPoint Police.

When we say this in our presentation skills workshops, there are two typical responses.

  1. Puzzlement. It’s as if we can hear the person thinking, “Come on. You’re the presentation expert. You should have rules about PowerPoint!”
  2. Relief. “Oh, thank goodness. Those rules about PowerPoint never made any sense to me.”

It’s true we’re presentation experts; and it’s also true that many of the rules out there don’t make any sense.

We’re not saying that there aren’t basic design guidelines that can enhance the design of a slide. What we are saying is that there are no hard-and-fast rules that must always be followed.

Why?

Because life isn’t that simple.

Imagine Walt Disney in a meeting where he had to present the 7 Dwarfs concept via PowerPoint. Unfortunately for Walt, some trainer had told him years ago that he could never have more than 6 bullets per slide. What’s he to do? Split them up onto separate slides? That doesn’t make any sense. Instead, he needs to be a pragmatist, ignore the rule, and list all 7 dwarfs together on one slide. (He could use just their pictures, but that assumes he’d remember their names. That’s a dangerous assumption if Walt’s experiencing nervousness that day.)

But, less is more, right?

Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to PowerPoint, but if following a rule gets in the way of quality communication, it’s a lousy rule and must be set aside.[Tweet “If following a rule gets in the way of quality communication, it’s a lousy rule”]

So what do you recommend?

We like to think of PowerPoint as a tool to provide structure and to trigger the presenter’s thoughts. You are your presentation, not the slides. Use them to guide you through the presentation, rather than BEING the presentation. It will make your life easier. It will make the task of following you easier as well.

We’ve blogged and vlogged about these concepts several times over the years. Follow this link to read more.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Presentation Myth: Simple Slides are Always Better

June 10, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

A recent workshop participant said, “I don’t want to simplify this slide. The abundance of the data is where the story is.”

Simple Slides are Always Better 6-9-14

As his coach, I cannot argue with that. This is exactly why those one-size-fits-all rules about the number of bullets or words on a slide don’t work.

Admittedly, sometimes less is more. (And we do help our clients simplify their slides and their message when necessary.) But as this workshop participant said, sometimes the message is better communicated through lots of data.

Slide Vs. Handout
The slide pictured here would be, admittedly, a lousy visual aid if it were projected onto a screen. It’s too busy and would be hard to read, so in cases such as this, be sure to include a hard copy of the slide so that people can read and study it as part of your presentation.

I encourage you to think critically about the rules you’ve heard about slide design and business presentations. As Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, often says, “If a slide doesn’t help you move the conversation forward, it’s a lousy visual aid.”

What “rules” for presenting do you break?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”