The Perils of PowerPoint
Learn about Perils of PowerPoint.
Author: Geetesh Bajaj
The presentation begins - it's based on the same template you saw at last week's convention. The effects are the same too - text swivels, transitions boggle - and a somber chart makes its grand appearance in a circular zooming movement along with a sneezing 'whoosh' sound every time a new legend is introduced. And this is a presentation a wannabe specialist is giving to a group of VCs.
Another instance - a food technology firm presents its corporate profile - black background, navy blue text and red bullets, interspersed with pictures scanned from 10 year old colour catalogs. And yes, this contains all the conceivable bells and whistles you can ever imagine. And at least four typestyles in a single slide. And, before I forget - a proud presenter with a smile of a cat who's eaten the cream. Alas, a serious case of indigestion!
Unfortunately, these are not stray happenings - in fact they seem more like convention, rather than exception.
PowerPoint - and its 'power' carries them away beyond a 'point' - and it's not PowerPoint's fault that these users want to use all its options in a single presentation. They never heard the adage - "less is more". You'll find them everywhere - self acclaimed multimedia and PowerPoint specialists - every office has at least one. In course of my storyboarding sessions and meetings, I've met more of them than I would have liked to.
They are the main infiltrators of the 'Perils Of PowerPoint'.
Now that we have been to PowerPoint land, it's time to get back and face our real problem - the 'Perils of PowerPoint' - let's take a look at the characters we have discussed in our play act.
First are the perils and secondly we have PowerPoint - the third angle of this triangle is you - the person who would finally design the presentation.
You have to be aware of these 'perils' and stay away from them. It could be nice if I made a list and reproduced them here - you could just follow them word-to-word and stay away from such perils. However, there's no list here as you can see.
That's because such lists do little more than to block your creativity. A set of guidelines will be a much better approach.
Let's start with the background - avoid shocking and fluorescent colours - also don't use red, black, dark green and dark blue as far as possible. Also stay away from bright photographs as backdrops. If you're using graduated backgrounds, make sure that all content on all slides is visible over it. Colour combinations are another important playing field - while it is too detailed a subject to discuss here, you should choose combinations which are both appealing and utilitarian. Also, use company specific colours to further the corporate identity of your client or end-user. For a very subtle and sophisticated effect - try using black and white as your colour combination!
Keep font sizes readable - I've seen many great presentations marred by a 20 line paragraph which was never readable. Also, if you have to use a lot more text than you can afford to - do make it a point to incorporate white text on a dark background, rather than the other way. Make sure the audience does not have to squint their eyes to view!
Speaking about text - avoid long sentences. Break your sentences into small points instead. You can also try out different line spacing options in your text boxes - select 'Line Spacing' from the 'Format' menu and experiment with the options. Avoid using Uppercase characters unless they are indispensable.
Although this guideline is not concerned with PowerPoint or presentations in general - it still is the most important of the lot: always cross check any factual references in your presentation. Nothing can prove more annoying for your audience than to view a factual mistake. Another golden rule: never point out mistakes for which you can't offer any solutions.
Don't get carried away by the multitude of clipart available with PowerPoint - many excellent presentations have been made using no clipart. In fact, the general professional trend nowadays is to use specific collages and subdued pictures instead of clipart.
Also, optimize your images outside PowerPoint - don't insert a full screen picture into PowerPoint and then resize it to a quarter screen - do all resizing in a specialized image editor before importing into PowerPoint.
Sound is an important element - but very often neglected. You could try using a background score for your presentation. Animation sounds are however, meant to be used in moderation. Nothing can be more annoying than to see bulleted text arrive animated with a 'whoosh' sound. Don't do it!
Movies allow you to go astray - but in spite of all the development in technology, computer speed is still a critical element. Make sure that all the delivery media are capable of playing the movies smoothly without dropping frames. Don't use more than one movie on each slide and don't congest movie slides with too much information.
If you want to learn more about PowerPoint, you can visit other pages on this site. For additional links, the PowerPoint main page has a continuously updated list of online resources.