Thursday, April 03, 2008

Give Better Presentations

Most Powerpoint presentations suck. That's usually because most speeches and presentations suck. And that's because most people don't like speaking or just aren't good at it.

Public speaking is really my bread and butter - much more so than writing.

But, if it's not your bag or it's something you're working on, here's a quick fix for your boring Powerpoint presentations:

A few weeks ago, Seth Godin suggested searching the Creative Commons pictures on Flickr to help spark ideas and creativity. I followed his advice and used some of those pictures as background images on my talk I gave today to workforce development professionals.

The slide deck doesn't make a lot of sense without the talk, but that's really the point. After all, your Powerpoint shouldn't carry the day - the content of your speech should. I'll be posting the video from my talk soon, but here's one way you can get creative with your Powerpoint.

I'm a fan of a thin slide deck, especially if each slide looks good. I put the bare minimum on each slide because I want people listening to me and not staring at words on a screen. This way, I can dwell on a point or allow for questions and what's on the screen is still relevant.


Comments (4)


You've hit on two critical points that many people miss as they jump on the "PowerPoint is evil" bandwagon.

1. "the slide deck doesn't make a lot of sense without the talk" - Exactly! The slides are complementary to the presentation, and the presentation is you.

2. "I want people listening to me and not staring at a screen" - Right again. People can focus on one or the other. Show them a slide, pause your words, and then bring the attention back to you.

On the other hand, I think that most presentations don't suck because "people don't like speaking or just aren't good at it". I think most people get in trouble because they don't really make an attempt to learn the skills. It's really not so hard, and once you know how, it is very enjoyable.

JT O'Donnell

11:13 AM

Hi Sam,

I had a similar experience...a colleague sent me a blog post on the subject of PPTs that convinced me to re-do a slide deck for a professional development webinar I was delivering to a group of executives. I went from 39 slides to 12, and replaced most of the text with visuals. The effect was amazing. The dialog during the session was much more engaging and the feedback post-session was excellent. I'm officially 'hooked on visuals.'

James Walker

7:24 PM

Hi Sam,

Great post. Coming from the PR side of things, I think so many times people create powerpoints with recycling in mind. That is they create a text-heavy slide deck with the mindset that they (or anyone else) would be able to come back and view the presentation later on and it would make perfect sense.

Though we are focused on image, message is also very key for us. Creating a balance between the two is something that most of us (PR Pros) work on everyday.

These are all great comments and ideas. The more bright thoughts like this that we can get together, the better it will be for everyone.

@James - It that situation, I'd almost make 2 separate decks, or put together a video of the talk with the smaller deck interspersed.