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I recently graduated with an MBA and an M.S. Information Systems from Boston University, concentrating in Marketing and Business Analytics. I also live on a boat and have a Boston Terrier named Maracas.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Horrible Death by Powerpoint

It is truly incredible that even though we are surrounded by so much technology, we still have so many issues communicating.  Not that technology would make us better at communicating but at least it should have helped.  Instead, people think that they need to give presentations while writing everything they are saying on a powerpoint slide and then adding stock photography (with watermarks) to the slide.  Kill me now!

My current job requires me to communicate very technical stuff to non-technical people.  While training  on the subject I have had to go though so many powerpoint presentations that have more that a hundred slides in some cases.  This training has had me thinking on ways to present information so that anyone can understand it.

There's a theory in design that says you should design for children and the elderly.  If you can accomplish this, you have just designed for almost everyone in between.  I'd like to think that this approach can also be applied to designing presentations.  Especially when you are talking about very technical stuff that could potentially be very boring.

When doing some research into the best ways to give presentations, I ran into the famous 10/20/30 rule that has been evangelized by Guy Kawasaki.  It essentially says that no powerpoint presentation should have more than 10 slides, last more than 20 minutes, and contain font smaller than 30 points.   While this rule should normally be used in the venture capital world, I like the idea of using it for everything.

Since presentations are there to help you visually present an idea, then nobody should have a problem sticking to the 10/20/30 rule. In a way, I would like to propose that no presentation should transmit an idea by itself.  Presentations require a presenter.  Presenters should be able to communicate without a presentation.  Presentations should only be there for support.  

OK, so now you want to make a presentation.  Well, there are many tools you can use to make such presentations.  The most popular one is PowerPoint.  It is also the most deadly since everyone over uses it.  The next most popular is Keynote, which makes beautiful presentations if you have the right eye for design.  Next in the arsenal is Prezi.  While beautiful it can also be a train wreck.  Please use carefully and not so often.  A less known tool is SlideRocket.  This one is cloud enabled and can show a live twitter feed.  Lastly, there is Knovio.  I am quickly becoming a fan of this one because it requires you to record yourself.  If you bore yourself to tears, then you know you need to keep working at it!

Giving presentations can be daunting.  But if you have to give them, first work on your communication skills.  Once you master this, you can work on your stage performance.  This can really make or break a presentation and the only way to master this is by trial and error.  I suggest taking some Improv Comedy classes to really get good at it.

Well, off you go.  Make presentations, communicate ideas, and entertain.  But please, oh please, don't write paragraph upon paragraph of text on a slide.  Stick to words or non-sentences.  And remember, it's not the presentation that sucks.  It's you.

1 comment:

  1. I remember a finance class that clearly broke the 10/20/30 rule. I also recently went through a presentation class at work from Decker Communications. Highly recommended- http://decker.com/