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You are the Presentation, Powerpoint is your prop.

You are the Presentation, Powerpoint is your prop.

PowerPoint, love it or hate it?

Perhaps I should simply ask you if you Like it?

Powerpoint 2007

PowerPoint is once again the recipient of blame, angst and dislike. Even the New York Times decided to jump in quoting the US Military’s PowerPoint woes:



I’m one of those people who thinks that Microsoft PowerPoint gets a bad rap.

The Horror, The Horror…

I have some painful personal experience as a Support / Implementation Engineer where one of the people I was working with comes to me one day in a panic that he has to do a presentation to the Regional VP about his project and he needs my help to do the PowerPoint.

Besides this guy having control issues, he subsequently laid out how he had 60-100 slides comprising: –

  • Text: he wanted his word for word verbal presentation to be the text.
  • Scans of newspaper articles.
  • Embedded AutoCAD drawings and maps.
  • An average of 4 digital photographs per slide.

Then his cherry on the icing on the cake was he wanted music and animations for each slide.

I wasn’t even sure that the PCs we had could handle opening a file like that and he explained to me that he had to impress the VP or the project would be cancelled. The poor guy was a total wreck and insisted he had to have it that way. I managed to convince him that perhaps we could resize the photos but he didn’t want to reduce any of the content.

My job was basically to offer technical help not to provide suggestions so I wasn’t in a position here to do more than I was asked.

The one question I should have asked, that would have changed everything was,

How long has the VP allocated for your presentation?”

Your presentation’s length should be a function of the time you are allocated.

This isn’t a license to finagle and connive extra time or set a meeting for longer.

Unless you have discovered Cold Fusion or a cure for one of the major diseases how long do you really think people are going to maintain attention?

The Warptest POV

My theory is two-fold when it comes to PowerPoint:

  1. Pay attention to all the people out there who tell you 10 slides no more, use an elegant template, don’t try to overload me with PowerPoint bling (yes minimal use of animations etc.) and no you don’t want the text to be verbatim what you are saying.
  2. PowerPoint presentations should be your prop. You are the presentation.

The trick is passion, engagement and perhaps a sense of humor. I am as nervous of public speaking as the next guy but get me talking about something I know, love and believe in and I can engage you.

I won’t use PowerPoint to obscure the message, I want you to pay attention to me (what an egomaniac huh!) actually I want you to pay attention to the message of my Presentation because basically I am trying to sell an idea or concept.

View this as an elevator pitch with images and minimal text.

An idea I touted this week with one of my favorite Tweeps (Twitter-people) @testingqa was the following:

ppt-tweet - powerpoint

A la Twitter and it’s 140 character per tweet cap, perhaps what PowerPoint needs is a proportional limit.

The truth is that PowerPoint seems to be exception to the rule we grow up with, that:

A bad workman blames his tools”

Microsoft Office is a productivity suite and PowerPoint is no exception. Remember, keyword = productivity. To this end Microsoft offers us a wealth of resources: –

  • Training – PowerPoint is like any other tool, you need to know how to use it.
  • Templates – there are some fantastic templates that can make the difference between memorably eye-catching or not. These are nicely divided up by category/ purpose.

.. and much, much more.

So let’s stop indulging in blaming our tools and props. Remember the point is:

You are the presentation, PowerPoint is the prop.


Amen – it's not PowerPoint that's the problem but rather the PHBs who abuse it.

I'm sure that we've all had the manager who was too busy preparing a presentation on why the project is blocked to answer the questions that would unblock it.

“A bad workman blames his tools”

This is a wonderful statement. I side with you and think that PowerPoint has been given a bad rap.

People who plan to present need to put more time thinking about their audience's needs and fears. Then they need to craft a message that will address those needs or fears.
They need to spend less time with the presentation.

Nice post. Great information here for anyone who plans to make a presentation. Can I have permission to use your statement that I quoted at the beginning of my comments?

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