Dear PowerPoint: It’s not you, it’s me.

Death by PowerPoint? That’s old news. The tried and true tool that guaranteed conference attendees a post-lunch snooze now has more power under the hood. But that doesn’t guarantee a compelling presentation deck unless we know how to harness its engine.

You may recall the New York Times article, ‘We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.’ US General McChrystal dryly remarked, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.” This sentiment continued until Clear Presentation Design declared “Enough!” and posted a presentation which, at this writing, has over 65,000 views:

Change is hard – what’s the first step?
Shelley Paul of Atlanta offers an alternative to Death by PowerPoint 2011. She shares these 5 ideas to keep your PowerPoint love alive:

  1. Know your stuff
  2. Limit your text
  3. Use great visuals
  4. Keep it clean
  5. Think about brains (this may be a zombie reference, not sure)

Garr Reynolds’ Top Ten Slide Tips digs a bit deeper and provides almost a short course in presentation design that everyone can benefit from studying. The author of Presentation Zen cautions presenters to be careful in choosing each design element, whether it’s color, font or the style of a chart.

Slopegraphs keep data on track
Speaking of charts, throughout PowerPoint’s history and development experts have pleaded and begged us to make our slides visually engaging. But what if the slides need to reference data from spreadsheets? It’s not our fault if Excel graphs suck. We can’t all be Edward Tufte.

Enter slopegraphs. Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business. As shown in the example image below, Bruce claims that Slopegraphs Beat the Pants Off Other Charts.

Slopegraph from Speaking PowerPoint
Bruce explains how Slopegraphs are an effective way to make data visual:

“Slopegraphs are perfect when you want to contrast two sets of data, either showing how the data changes over time, or how two groups are different. It is basically a line chart with two time periods. But slopegraphs have many advantages over tables, bar charts and pie charts.”

There’s more, so much more
We are always on the lookout for expert presentation advice to share with you. There are a number of websites, too many to mention here, that will inspire and get you up to speed on PowerPoint’s latest superpowers. You’ll find that the Microsoft PowerPoint blog is a great source of tips. You’ll also find helpful lessons and tutorials from the knowledgeable folks at Indezine. We tweet our favorite tips and articles so follow us on Twitter to catch them.

12 Responses to “Dear PowerPoint: It’s not you, it’s me.”

  1. mark waldin

    Most presentations are a crutch for the presenter so they don’t have to do their job well. MOST really good presentations don’t benefit from Powerpoint or any other visual tool. Really good presenters simply speak intelligently, cogently, crisp and succinct. No slides, no graphs, no visuals. There are times when a visual brings something to the party but very rarely in most presentations. When it does, turn on the projector show the visual and TURN THE PROJECTOR OFF.

    Yes Powerpoint IS to blame. It gave people an excuse to forget how to present well. The poorly done slide show listed in this thread mentioned gmail is not to blame for bad email but I can tell you that email (gmail, hotmail, whatevermail) is to blame for a decline in rich personal live conversation and today we are all suffering from that.

  2. Elaine Fogel

    Visual presentations help people who are not audio learners. An image or graphic on the screen can help one generalize the information better. As a professional speaker and visual learner myself, I prefer to use PowerPoint, as each slide gives me a visual cue to my content. I make my points and share stories based on the graphic.

  3. Armando Franco

    I loved it! It’s so true! “Death by PowerPoint” has become so popular we forget not to shoot the messenger. Thanks for your time putting this presentation together.

  4. Mary Liu

    When I first started presenting in front of the room, I was all nerves and sick to my stomach. Powerpoint was my savior! My thought was, “great, now they can focus on the powerpoint slides and not on me!”. In fact, I became the Queen of powerpoint creation. I had so many slides and details describing every detail about the product I was marketing that my hour talk had over 80+ slides! Looking back, I must have bored some people stiff. However, my business did thrive, so for some, it I guess it was helpful to see all those details. Now a days, I believe less is more! A single picture on a slide that tells it’s own story which relates to what I’m presenting makes it so much more interesting for the audience. Plus, it allows for a lot more interaction as well. As a speaker gets more comfortable in front of the room, the less props they will need, powerpoint slides included.

  5. emre

    I can’t believe it took seventy slides to get that message across.

  6. Jeff Springer

    PowerPoint is to blame when it requires so much of the presenter. Slide-based presentation software suffers from a 40 year-old model; a model that requires story-tellers to be professional designers. An entire industry of presentation designers has built up around this.

    Impression Studio solves this problem by having professional design built in. This leaves the presenter with time to focus on their message and the media and text that will best tell their story.

    You can learn more at

    Jeff Springer

  7. Joel

    In consider PowerPoint is my big partner. No power no points, and no points nom power. What do I mean, I need both. Great help!



  8. Dan

    What about clients that ask for no more than 4 – 5 summary slides? Are you suggesting you make it 20 – 30 shorter ones?