PowerPoint (or Apple’s Keynote) is the most-popular presentation application in the universe. It’s also the only piece of software that is detrimental to the survival of unicorns. Let me explain. In 2001 (maybe 2002, my memory is fuzzy ... like a kitten), when I worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I read a document that changed how I constructed PowerPoint presentations. Seth Godin’s simple list of how you could make a better PowerPoint changed my life. Sounds dramatic doesn’t it. Well, now that I’m a professional speaker...a true member of “the circuit,” I rely on my ability to wield both the spoken word and visual imagery to inform, educate, and entertain conference attendees. Godin’s recommendations that have stuck with me for a decade: eliminate bullet points, use compelling imagery, and minimize (and enlarge) text on each slide.
So here’s the rub. We have all been in a conference session where the presenter has 36 bullet points on each slide. The slides read like chapters of a novel. Little imagery combined with color schemes that make my eyes bleed...it’s an epidemic. Why do we continue to do this? Perhaps it’s due to professors who use PowerPoint slides to deliver course material. Students see slides that could be published in a book and later emulate that style when they present.
Why am I concerned about unicorns? Well, for starters, Klout says that I am influential about unicorns, so I feel compelled to write about them. Additionally, unicorn homicide via horrid PowerPoints is sadly the most common offense by my peers in student affairs.
How can we save unicorns, our eyes, and keep people excited about our PowerPoint presentations?
1) Eliminate most bullet points. Use them sparingly.
2) Use compelling and captivating imagery. Embed high definition videos into your slides and connect your laptop to the house audio. Images and videos break up your presentation into an engaging performance piece that can teach while simultaneously protecting the majestic unicorn.
3) Treat your conference presentations like art. Art is engaging. Art excites people. Art tells a story. If you want people to read a book on an LCD screen, why do we need you? Send us your slides instead. That way we can go to another session. After all, time is a commodity.
My slides are useless without me as their interpreter.
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