Quit Leaning On Your PowerPoint Crutch

July 19, 2017

In a business meeting, someone in a blazer stands to give a presentation. The lights dim, a machine whirs in the corner and information is projected onto a screen. The audience reads the bullet points faster than the presenter can explain them and waits impatiently for the next slide.

Now, for the moment of truth: Does this scene take place in 1967 or 2017?

If you’re unsure if the presenter in the scenario is using a carousel slide projector or a laptop running Microsoft PowerPoint, you’ve hit on the heart of the problem with most modern presentations. Despite having significantly more advanced technology, we’re still thinking about and formatting presentations like we did when LBJ was president.

First introduced in 1990 as a digital replacement for the slide projectors that had been an industry standard for forty years, PowerPoint has become the industry standard in the thirty years since. However, according to a recent article from Forbes, Harvard University has found that using PowerPoint actually damages your brand. The team at Harvard conducted a double-blind study asking participants to create and give a presentation using different tools including PowerPoint and zoomable user interfaces such as Prezi. “Using a real-world business scenario, PowerPoint was rated…as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids. Ouch.” Ouch, indeed.

So, how do you bring your decks into the 21st century and become a more effective presenter? You may not need to ditch PowerPoint completely, but it is definitely time to give your content and approach an overhaul. Consider these tips, adapted from How to Design a Pitch Deck: Lessons from a Seasoned Founder.

Streamline Your Content

Your deck is not your presentation. What you say to your audience is the presentation; your deck is visual support. Limit yourself to one headline, one sentence, one image and one caption per slide. If it wouldn’t fit in a tweet, it’s too long.

Tell A Story

Storytelling is essential because our brains are hardwired to respond to stories. Start with a catchy slide that sets up the problem at hand and then build tension to your solution. Keep your audience engaged — and provide them with a way to better remember your presentation — by giving them a storyline to follow.

Have Supplemental Information

As previously stated, your deck is visual support, not your entire presentation. Your audience may have questions or require more details about your proposal. Include that information in additional slides (to be used during a Q&A, not the presentation) or in a separate document that can be left with the audience for further reading.

Stop using standard, traditional PowerPoint templates and ace your next presentation by thinking out of the box (or slide). Need some help crafting a custom deck for your next pitch? Contact us to learn more about our communication strategy and design services.

Wesleigh Mowry

Wesleigh Mowry

Wesleigh is FH's Senior Graphic Designer and resident cupcake provider. When not in the office she can be found writing, rereading her favorite novel and inadvertently teaching the names of typefaces to her friends and family.


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