Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PowerPoint: Say it Again

Okay, this is not news to anybody, but Seth Godin's post on PowerPoint abuse is worth repeating, because no matter how many times anybody talks about good and bad ways to use the omnipresent Office app as a presentation support tool, the parade of awful presentations continues.

Except that he's only about 80% right, I think. Seth writes from the marketing mindset, which is where most of us live, but...

If you're making a presentation to sell an idea, Seth's advice is great. But PowerPoint, and even live presentations, get used for other things.

I've seen PowerPoint used for plain old documents, and if you're creating something to email to people to give them information, you need to look at it differently.

Why do people use PowerPoint for this instead of creating a text document? Because of the quirks of Microsoft Office, I think. If you need to send information that consists of bullet points and some supporting charts and diagrams, it's frankly easier to do it in PowerPoint (quirky graphics tools and all) that deal with the nightmare of Word. Word's a pretty good word processor (once you learn to ignore the 95% of its features that no sane person really wants) but start dealing with non-text information and you'll need some ibuprofen pretty quickly.

At one company where I worked, the standard way to send routine documents was a PowerPoint presentation with a plain white background. It worked.

You also need to think about your audience. Seth's advice to use images and very few words is fine. Unless, of course, you're talking to techies, who want details, details, details. There are audiences who want to sit and look at that, and are honestly impressed if you have a ton of information on the slide.

Like all rules, there are good reasons to break Seth's generally good PowerPoint rules. Now, 90% of the time they're broken, there aren't good reasons. But don't forget that other 10%.

1 comment:

Maureen Rogers said...

Absolutely agree that you have to consider the use of the PPT. If it's going to be a leave behind, even if you go the Godin short, few bullet point route, you might want to include printouts of the Notes pages that give the detail. After the preso, someone might well want to review or share the presentation with others. If you don't explain what the Screen bean with the lightbulb over his head and a bullet that says "Another Bright Idea" really means, the leave-behind becomes totally useless.