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

December 20, 2011

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.