Saturday, 1 December 2012

PowerPoint Sucks


As I blogged on Wednesday, I went to a networking event in Manchester.
One of the speakers; Bryan Johnson from CapGemini, gave a speech titled ‘PowerPoint Sucks’. Honestly, after listening- I agree. (Although that pesky Business Ethics module coursework will remain in PowerPoint- TOO much effort has gone into that to change now!).
I will never be able to articulate his points as well as he did, however I just wanted to share with you what I took away from it, as maybe some food for thought.
The point of a presentation is to inform the listener of something, however so many presentations are terrible, and do not effectively do their purpose.
Get the right starting block.
One of the first reasons is the problem with PowerPoint and visualisation. We need visualisations, we do. They help put things into context, and explain abstract ideas. However, data can be easily misinterpreted through visuals.

Which is bigger? The Red, or the Blue? 


They are actually the same, but the way we display visuals has a huge impact on our ability to interpret the message behind them.

When designing a PowerPoint, people seem to instantly want to make it as colourful, as dynamic and flashy as possible. Ooh 3D effect...
This however distracts the audience, but more importantly dilutes the actual content.

What is this actually trying to say?
Looking at this, is there any reason that the Sturgeon is the same size as the Yellow Fin Tuna?
After trying to interpret for a good number of minutes, you’ve not heard what the speaker was saying, and he’s moved on to a new slide already.


Whoa, look what happens if the tax rate expires!!
Oh... actually...
Data can be manipulated, to mislead the viewer, to present an argument in the presenters favour.
This was a screen shot from Fox News, which on first glace looks like the tax rate will shoot right up, however if you can read the tiny writing, the rate has only actually gone up 4.5%.
Avoid the PowerPoint trap.
Have you ever sat down to listen to a presentation, the speaker gets up on stage, and clicks the mouse to his left...
Above him on a huge projector opens a title page. Doesn’t seem too bad, it’s a got a bit colour...
Next slide
Next slide

And before long you switch off.


Notice in the right hand corner? Slide 106 out of 112?!
Nobody. Ever. Is going to pay attention to this amount of slides. In fact studies have shown that the average number of slides people fully concentrate on is 2.
The truth is that humans can rarely concentrate on more than one thing at once. Visual and speech? We are rarely gifted with the ability to comprehend both in tandem.

All stories involve data.
However, don’t interpret this as never to include diagrams. Data is very important. It’s the fundamentals behind every claim, every decision.

This diagram was constructed by Florence Nightingale. That’s right, in the early 1800’s!
This "Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East" shows the number of deaths that occurred from preventable diseases (in blue), those that were the results of wounds (in red), and those due to other causes (in black).
This is an example of where Info graphics work. Displayed logically, they are easy to interpret, and do not mislead the viewer.

To end, Bryan’s final point was this.

It’s true. I listened to many presentations on Wednesday, and there were some less than great ones, where people had come with a dozen slides, and went through them in a logical format, which wasn’t really engaging.

What I took away from this, is that even though it’s so easy to rely on PowerPoint, at the end of the day, I really should be learning what I’m talking about, so I can speak about my topic with passion, and not have to be prompted with fuddy slides. Hopefully then, my audience might come away actually having learnt something, and not be day dreaming of what the buffet cart will be serving for lunch.

All content was interpreted and taken from Bryan Johnson- Information Strategist at CapGemini. All credit due to him for the slides that I screen shotted and the ideas I have wrote about.

To view his presentation in full:

However, as it’s not wordy it’s not too useful without the man himself!
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1 comment

  1. When I was at Uni back in 2000 PPoint seemed so fresh & new but now it is tired & jaded indeed the term "Death by power point" is now known in popular culture.

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