Power Point’s dirty little secret
I’ve blogged often about the abuse of Power Point and other slide software programs – using them as speaker notes, and making them more about words than images. And of course, the over-use and over-dependence on software instead of just connecting with your audience, person to person.
But there’s a further problem with the software, one that’s even more insidious and destructive to good presentations. Because slides are created one at a time, they encourage people to think in terms of vertical slices rather than horizontal storytelling. As such, they promote an ADD approach to presentations – and thinking in general, since so much of organizational life and intellectual capital is captured in slide decks rather than in documents.
It’s hard to tell a good story with a slide – or a series of slides. And stories are what we remember – because stories naturally fit our brains. We remember good, emotional stories especially easily. Data is something that we forget just as easily.
That storytelling power is undercut by Power Point deck building. You create a slide by putting data (or words) on it. Perhaps you find a slide from a co-worker that has a great chart on it. You put the two together. And then you repeat the process until you have enough slides to fill the time allotted. What you now have is a data set, or a set of boxes with words in them — both hard to deliver in a presentation in an interesting way, and harder still to remember. Your Power Point slide creation technique is therefore ensuring that your presentation will be forgettable and boring.
So don’t start with Power Point at all. Tell your story first, so that you can be sure you have one. Tell it in a word doc, or a storyboard, or scratch it with a quill pen on vellum, but whatever you do, create a story first. Make sure it flows horizontally. Then, add some illustrations with a slide program if your story calls for illustrations. Don’t start with Power Point – it will only hurt your storytelling and therefore your presentation.