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If you have worked in an office in the Western world in the past 25 years, you will probably have sat through a PowerPoint presentation.
Yet eye contact plays such a fundamental part in holding an audience's attention that even as brilliant a speaker as Barack Obama depends on an autocue to simulate it.
If there's nothing but text on the screen, people will try to read and listen at the same time - and won't succeed in doing either very well. Few speakers are willing to open their mouths until they have their first slide safely in place. Projecting one slide after another might make it look as though you've prepared the presentation. This highlights the biggest problem with slide-based presentations, which is that speakers mistakenly think that they can get far more information across than is actually possible in a presentation. A Microsoft executive recently said that one of the best PowerPoint presentations he'd ever heard had no slides with bullet points on them. So remember that the more slides you have and the more there is on each slide, the more distracting it will it be for the audience - whereas the fewer and simpler the slides are, the easier it will be to keep them listening.
If the print is too small to read, they'll get irritated at being expected to do the impossible. But all too often the slides are verbal crutches for the speaker, not visual aids for the audience. But if you haven't planned exactly what you're going to say, you'll have to ad lib and, if you start rambling, the audience will switch off. At the heart of this is a widespread failure to appreciate that speaking and listening are fundamentally different from writing and reading. This didn't surprise me at all, because we've known for years that audiences don't much like wordy slides and don't find them as helpful as pictorial visual aids. You can download a slide with just the animated (including sound FX) fireworks here and copy them into an presentation!
They're often boring, writes presentation expert Max Atkinson.In the past 25 years, I've asked hundreds of people how many PowerPoint presentations they've seen that came across as really inspiring and enthusiastic.
A dozen slides with five bullet points on each assumes that people are mentally capable of taking in a list of 60 points. In fact, the invention of writing was arguably the most important landmark in the history of information technology.
What does surprise me is that so many of the program's standard templates invite users to produce lists of bullet points, when the program's main benefits lie in the creation of images. Do this before thinking about slides and you won't need as many of them - and the ones that you do decide to use are more likely to help to clarify things for the audience, rather than just remind you of what to say next. Before writing, the amount of information that could be passed on to others was severely limited by what could be communicated in purely oral form (ie not much).
If more presenters took advantage of that, inspiring PowerPoint presentations might become the norm, rather than the exception.
But the ability to write meant that vast amounts of knowledge could be communicated at previously unimagined levels of detail. Here at m62 we’ve produced a night and day PowerPoint template that gives you the best of both worlds.

The trouble is that PowerPoint makes it so easy to put detailed written and numerical information on slides that it leads presenters into the mistaken belief that all the detail will be successfully transmitted through the air into the brains of the audience.
To be honest I've only really used it as a way to illustrate a point or make an audience laugh (or get there attention halfway through in some other way). This was a trick I learned when I sat in on a presentation by a Microsoft employee back in 1996, who started his presentation with "It's Tuesday morning and I'm hungover, how about you?" because we'd all been taken on a jolly the night before!
That was the best presentation, the worst was a civil servant who talked us through 30 odd slides of pie charts.
And most of the slides will have just a single image covering the screen, or a sequence of images whilst I'm talking, or just a few words, and also embedded video clips. I get really positive feedback about the presentations because they are definitely not standard PPT.
Make it rich visually and break it up so it's not the same old text thing over and over, and most importantly - know your subject and talk to your audience, don't read slides.Richard J Deboo, LondonThank goodness for this article! I conduct English 'trainings' (as they are amusingly called in German) at SAP, among my other activities.
For years now, I have been trying to persuade people that presentations are not the easy way out when one attempts to inform people about something. Perhaps this article will finally make clear to people that presenting is a much different art than writing an essay. All of my professors, with only one rare exception, try to cram as much text as possible into as few slides as possible.
And most of my colleagues consider that as the norm while preparing slideshows of their own. Sad.Ashwin, Chennai, IndiaPeople use Powerpoint often for the wrong reasons where a quick simple explanation would suffice, it is draw out into death by slide show.
99% of the time there is no secretarial editing of the content and they all think that what they have to say is absolutely riveting. Then what can be said in 2 minutes takes a 15-minute presentation - not to mention the time consumed in preparing it in the first place. Have we lost the ability simply to say-your piece, without making a visual representation of it? School pupils often use Power Point in projects where the articulate spoken word would be a valued communication skill. But is it really true that creative, uncommon, full of technical tips presentation doesn't help listeners with understanding topic and keeping listening?Rafa?, Warsaw, PolandAnd now I'm seeing these hybrid documents that are effectively reports, but in Powerpoint format. In reality, they're too lazy to write a proper report so they stuff a load of text onto an existing presentation as a substitute. I would encourage the academic community, so eager to use this software every time they have to convey their papers, to read this insightful note. Andres, Pavia, ItalyProblem is, starting in school, and heading through college, and university, doing a talk has always meant 99% of people reading nervously from a script.
With that kind of education background on presentation skills is it surprising that most presentations are millions of slides from which the presenter reads. People need to be taught to present with no slides and no notes, perhaps limit them to three diagrams.

Powerpoints have infected teaching too, and I've seen kids eyes glaze over as a result with my early efforts and attempts to bring my lessons into the 21st century.
As suggested in the article, I'm pleased to say I now use them primarily to show visual images as part of my media and film teaching and agree that the simpler the better.
I tend to reserve the bullet pointed ones for a quick intro to topics which they can print off as handouts to use as revision notes. Why should kids find Powerpoints any less boring and difficult to take in than staff?Elspeth, HelstonI couldn't agree less.
I speak regularly on fin de siecle Viennese art and music, and often have 60-90 slides to illustrate my talk, including paintings, music, references, designs and, by the way, text. There are some great tools in PowerPoint that enable me to provide a visually interesting talk, usually for 45-60 minutes, which almost becomes cinematic or performance in its essence. Certainly I have never been accused of being boring, nor informational - quite the opposite, in fact. PowerPoint can be a challenge, but with colour, movement and sound - few fall asleep.Raymond Coffer, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of LondonThe biggest problem I find is the number of people who do Powerpoint karaoke- where they essentially read out the bullet points on the screen.
Thoroughly unhelpful and very boring.Kirsten, Wandsworth, LondonTwenty years ago I gave maybe three seminars a day on computing topics using transparencies. Several of us noticed that we got the most engagement when we drew pictures as we went along (despite our drafting skills).Stephen Maudsley, Bristol UKI am not defending rubbish PowerPoints, but reading and listening is easily possible - I am partially deaf and depend on written components of presentations to follow - it is much worse trying to struggle to listen to decipher speech.
TV subtitling is vital for following films and rather than detract from the picture, they help and are easily taken in automatically.
A good presentation with a half a dozen slides of points should portray half a dozen actual points, the five or so items on each slide should be there as reinforcement or examples. For instance a single slide may be able considerations taken when planning a project, the main point of the slide is to reaffirm that this action took place and point to a few examples of what was considered, not to go into detail about each consideration. One slide, one point.Ieuan, Port TalbotAny presentation software should only be used as a tool and not relied upon too heavily in presentation situations.
The author asked me what I thought of it a couple of days later so I had to lie and say it was great.
I spoke to a number of other people about it and all said they'd either skimmed it or not bothered reading it. Now the project is going ahead based on the presentation that nobody has read.Adrian, TelfordThe worst Powerpoint presentation I ever sat through was in my second year at University. Thankfully, the lecturer posted the notes on the university site, so we could actually read them!Nicola, ManchesterThe art of oration is fast becoming a lost art.
To be able to stand up, command an audience, get your point across and to be memorable and entertaining are things that you rarely see today. Powerpoint should be illegal - ban it immediately!Paul Brandwood, Taunton, UKWatch any of Dave Gorman's presentations to see it done properly.

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