Presentations: PowerPoint Is Not Your Autocue

What is it that leads so many presenters to fill their PowerPoint, or other package, slides with an infinite number of bullet points? It may well be that the term ‘death by PowerPoint’ came into being simply because of the number of bullets on offer to the audience at any given time. Recently I received a couple of presentation files to review and it came as no surprise to find each contained over sixty slides for a twenty-minute presentation. That’s a lot of slides for a twenty-minute presentation, especially as there was NOT ONE PICTURE!. Forgive the frustrated shouting, but there are only so many bullet points a man can take.

Presentation slides are really there as a visual aide to support what you are saying and to help your audience get your message and remember it. The clue is in the title. A slide full of text is not a visual aide. At its absolute best, it is a picture of some words that offers no visual stimulus at all. The saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ makes clear why we need to use images as part of our presentation. Images are easier for your audience to remember and easier to help them establish context and emotional associations relevant to them.

So why do presenters continue to fill their slides with pages of bullet point text?

In short, the presenters focus is on themselves, and not on their audience. The chances are that they have used their chosen slide package to actually write their presentation. They have captured the key points they want to make and probably then listed any sub topics they plan to cover. Using the slide package makes it easy for the presenter to then play around with the order of their presentation by simply dragging slides around. Their slides are really their cue cards, although they may have those as well, and each point is there to remind them of what they are saying, and what they are going to say next. Unsurprisingly, the result looks like a set of presentation notes. They offer little to engage the audience and the slow boring death begins.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

To help you get the most from your presentation visuals remember:

  • Less is more
  • Make one prime point per slide
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Focus on the needs of your audience
  • Avoid titles and use headlines instead