For good or ill, PowerPoint is the lingua franca of corporate America. But don’t get tripped up in debating its merits. Instead, learn how to turn PowerPoint to your advantage.
One widely quoted Microsoft estimate places the number of PowerPoint presentations at 30 million. That’s per day, by the way. One extrapolation of that figure estimates that those 30 million daily slide shows consume 15 million hours and pegs the economic cost of PowerPoint at $252 million. Numbers like underscore how much people use it, but also prompt statements such as Edward Tufte’s now infamous:
“Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.“Now that we’ve indulged in a bit of PowerPoint bashing, let’s move on to the task at hand: making PowerPoint work for you.
Board members expect PowerPoint, VCs expect PowerPoint, consultants expect PowerPoint, clients expect PowerPoint, and if you speak at a tradeshow or conference, they’ll expect PowerPoint. Heck, even David Byrne, the former front man for Talking Heads — is using PowerPoint.
The most important thing to remember is"?¦Scratch that. The only important thing to remember is that you are presenting. The PowerPoint is there to help you illustrate your “point” graphically. YOU ARE NOT THERE TO READ THE SLIDES.
Don’t believe me? A survey conducted by Communicating Using Technology, found that the most annoying thing about PowerPoint was speakers who read the slides to the audience.
There are all kinds of tips and tricks to make your slide pretty (more on that another day), but the most smoking PowerPoint deck in history won’t do jack if you get up there and read what they see on screen — akin to having English language subtitles for an English language movie.
If you want an example of what you should be going for, look to television. Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” both open their shows with similar set pieces. Colbert’s dubbed “The Word” and O’Reilly’s “Talking Points.”
What’s common to both is that the words on the screen aren’t what’s coming out of the hosts mouth. In fact, the words on screen expand, augment, contradict, mock, and support what the host is saying. That’s the way to do it. PowerPoint is a tool, you are the star of the show. Own it.