Oct 06 2008

Death by (Bad) PowerPoint – Part II

In the Part One, I discussed the familiar epidemic of “death by PowerPoint”, and how we should be focusing blame on the presenters — not necessarily the software. I presented four factors that I feel contribute to bad PowerPoint presentations. After covering two of the factors — lack of preparation and lack of experience and knowledge — I’m going to focus on the remaining two factors of indifference and self-importance.

Yeah, I'm going to need you to present my TPS slides in Kansas City tomorrow?

"Yeah, I'm going to need you to present my TPS slides in Kansas City on Monday." (c)iStockPhoto/Ferran Traite Soler

Indifference: Some presenters just don’t care – or at least don’t show that they care. They may be a last-minute replacement who has been given someone else’s PowerPoint slides to present. They may have been asked to present on an uninteresting topic or for an unappealing group. They go through the motions on behalf of their co-worker, manager, or company, but invest very little of themselves in the process. If the presenter is disengaged, the audience can sense it early and the presentation is doomed. In addition, a disinterested presenter will not make the extra effort to ensure their content connects with their audience. If you’re given an unexpected assignment, make the most of it by injecting your personality and personal touch into the presentation. If you’re enjoying yourself and engaged, it is more likely your audience will respond positively.

Self-Importance: Subject matter experts can be valuable sources of information; however, unless they take steps to tailor their presentations to their audience, their knowledge will benefit no one. Anticipating that your audience will simply bask in your deep knowledge on a particular topic is arrogant and flawed. Problems can occur especially when an expert isn’t presenting to his or her peers – for example, a technical expert presenting to marketers or a professor presenting to business executives. You need to engage your audience in their territory, not yours. If you fail to anticipate your audience’s needs, you will be disconnected from your audience and that could lead to presentation fatalities. Prevent unnecessary harm to your audience by taking some time to adjust your content to their needs and interests.

“Death by PowerPoint” is dishonorable for any PowerPoint ninja or even a PowerPoint apprentice. Ask yourself the following questions before your next presentation:

  • Have you budgeted adequate time to prepare and rehearse your slides?
  • Have you invested time in editing and simplifying your presentation?
  • Have you learned at least one new thing to improve your next set of slides?
  • Are you excited about your next presentation?
  • Have you personalized the slides to reflect your unique style and perspective?
  • Are you confident that your slides are adequately tailored to your next audience?
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