Does PowerPoint even make sense anymore?


“My customers don’t want to see a bunch of slides.  They tune out almost immediately.”

“I don’t even bother with PowerPoint anymore.  I just have a conversation with my clients.” 

I hear comments like these every day from salespeople and customers alike.  It’s not surprising really.  Over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are created every day.  And with over 6 million teachers using slides in the classroom, customers have already seen their fair share of presentations by the time they enter the business world.  It’s understandable if we’ve all grown a bit weary of the whole genre.

Lately, I’ve seen a real backlash against PowerPoint or any type of slide-based presentation.  Perhaps it’s a result of years of being subjected to poorly designed and executed decks. Or it’s the endless lists of bullet points, dizzying animations, and stock photos that have led to a swelling rebellion. TED Talks may even have fueled a growing disillusionment in the format by showcasing a much fresher approach to connecting with audiences where slides played a minor supporting role.

While new alternatives to PowerPoint have sprung up offering a wider variety of features designed to make the format more impactful, interactive, and shareable, nothing has really replaced Microsoft’s invention.

So does PowerPoint – or any slide deck platform – even make sense anymore?

Let’s explore with another question:Has the way we process information changed?  No…and Yes and Yes.

No…  80% of the information our brain takes in comes through our eyes.  That means the visual aspect of a presentation is still of vital importance.  PowerPoint, or any presentation medium, can be extremely helpful in supporting and reinforcing your message.  And communicating complex ideas, figures or concepts? Often the right picture or slide communicates more than five minutes of verbal explanation.

Yes… Research shows that human attention spans are half of what they were ten years ago.  Average focused attention span is now about 5 minutes.  The long linear way a slide deck is traditionally used fails to account for waning attention spans.

Yes… People like to control their content.  We get our news and entertainment on demand, read or watch only so long as we’re interested.  We fast forward through commercials, click in and out of articles, and skim emails that are longer than a paragraph or two.  A slide-deck completely controlled by the presenter leaves the viewer powerless over their content. Not giving a customer some control over what they’re seeing is fans the revolutionary flame.

Yes, PowerPoint Still Makes Sense:

I still believe that PowerPoint – or any slide-based medium – can serve a valuable role providing visual support and reinforcement of key ideas you want your audience to remember.  But if you haven’t changed the way you’re using it, you are part of the problem.  Here’s some things you can do to make PowerPoint or any slide presentation work with today’s audiences:

  1. Break your content into chunks. Embrace shorter attention spans and quit trying to push long boring blocks of content on restless audiences. Break your content into short chunks that align with attention spans and re-engage your audience in between chunks.
  2. Think non-linear. The most effective presentations strike a balance between structure and free-flowing conversation.Develop your structure, but be ready to veer into areas as guided by your customer.  Some slide formats, like Prezi, are better designed for this than others, however even PowerPoint can become a non-linear presentation by creating an agenda with hyperlinks that allow you to quickly explore areas of interest.
  3. Mix up mediums. Like to have a less formal feel but still want to reinforce key messages or provide examples? Tablets and iPads are great for just this purpose.  But remember, a mobile device isn’t just a mini-laptop.  Check out best practices for presenting from a mobile device here.
  4. Check your delivery. Sometimes it’s not the medium that’s at fault. It’s the messenger.  It’s easy to hide behind slides and let your delivery slide, so to speak.  Make sure your delivery is fresh, energetic and conversational.  If you’re not sure where to start, try these quick tips here.

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