“I loved the way he used PowerPoint” | Tamela Rich
The anti-PPT bandwagon doesn't have room for another rider. My only addition to the chorus is that a bad PPT-based presentation is like a bad dog -- blame the owner! PPT isn't inherently bad, but, like Rotweiller, can be placed in the wrong hands and do real damage. I'd really like to hear from you about a presentation that thrived WITH the visual support.

“I loved the way he used PowerPoint”

Real Leaders Don't Use PowerPointThe anti-PPT bandwagon doesn’t have room for another rider. My only addition to the chorus  is that a bad PPT-based presentation is like a bad dog — blame the owner!

PPT isn’t inherently bad, but, like a Rotweiller, can be placed in the wrong hands and do real damage.

I generally agree with the authors of Real Leaders Don’t do PowerPoint: How to sell yourself and your ideas, “You are the message. Who you are–your character, experience, values–shapes the message your listeners hear.”

Dan Ariely, PowerPoint master

Ariely & MePredictably IrrationalLast year I heard Dan Ariely, bestselling author and professor at my B-school (Fuqua — Duke) speak on behavioral economics and his first book Predictably Irrational.

In staccato diction, he regaled us with tales of our irrational behavior — like why we won’t pay $3000 for a leather couch in the family room while we will pay the same amount for a leather interior in our family car — and he did it with the delivery skills of any comedian’s aspiration.

If he’d been a rock star we’d have whipped out our cigarette lighters and stomped our  feet until he gave an encore.

And yes, he used PPT, including a slide with an x-ray of Homer Simpson’s brain.  See?  I remembered that one.

In defense of PowerPoint

Recall a time when someone gave a terrific, memorable, actionable presentation WITH PPT, as Professor Ariely did.

I’ll wait.

OK, I can’t wait all day.

If you did have the good fortune of attending such an event, you’ll recall that PPT didn’t make it great — it was great because the speaker had something to say and said it with conviction; they knew their stuff cold, engaged the audience, told stories and stayed ON POINT.  Did the PPT help?  Maybe, after all, who knows how it would have gone without the screen?

Reasons for PPT:

  • Leave-behind for those who couldn’t make it to the live event
  • Guided handout for taking notes
  • Satisfies the need for visual stimulation
  • Illustrate points graphically

Bottom line:  No one says “I loved the way he used PowerPoint;” but if you’re a good presenter they’ll say “I’d go see him speak again.”

Malcolm Gladwell speaks

Blink by Malcolm GladwellA friend of mine had the good fortune of attending The Foundation for the Carolinas’ annual meeting.  You can hardly drag me to one of those, but I wish I’d gone to this one.  Why?  Bestselling author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell did the keynote.

According to my friend, Gladwell took a wireless mike and roved the audience, telling stories about a town in (I believe) Pennsylvania and how and why it prospered and failed.  My friend, a public relations pro who is not easily impressed, was awed.

Just the opposite of Ariely, Gladwell is soft spoken.  Where Ariely is irreverent, Gladwell is earnest.  Both can bring the house down.

I’m not a qualified speaking coach — my specialty is the content — but to me this is the bottom line:  You don’t have to be “dynamic” to get your message across.  The book mentioned earlier, Real Leaders Don’t do PowerPoint: How to sell yourself and your ideas, got good reviews and the website and book Presentation Zen is chock full of great stuff. And I’m always here to help.

It’s easy to bash PPT, and you’re welcome to bash away in the comments section.  I’d really like to hear from you about a presentation that thrived WITH the visual support.

About Tamela M. Rich

From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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  1. Good article, Tamela. I’m afraid a lot of people are suffering a slow “death by PowerPoint.” Fortunately, there are books like the ones you mentioned, as well as sites like Slideshare.net that have really inspiring examples of spare, powerful presentations. Also, there’s Keynote–which is better than PowerPoint in my opinion. See Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” or any presentation by Steve Jobs to witness the power of Apple’s software in the right hands.

  2. In my view, the best books (and criticism) on PowerPoint are by Edward Tufte. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is excellent. His essay “The Cognitive Power of PowerPoint” is withering and thought-provoking.

    Umair Haque tries to be creative with PowerPoint; he turns things on their sides and uses the screen like a great canvas. It’s a little self-conscious for my taste but I like that he’s thinking about using the format differently.

  3. hi Tamela… nice post…
    I was watching Umair Haque of Harvard do one of his presentations and it was totally different than the usual ppt that we see everywhere…
    i wonder if he was using Mac…

    the youtube link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dy1QC-Ie5s

    maybe you could tell us what it is that he is using…



  4. No, he’s stepping through animation. Working for a media lab has it’s privileges, eh?
    By the way, this is an important topic and Umair Haque does a great job with it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Presentation Skills

    Here’s a somewhat “tongue in cheek” look at how (not) to make the most of PowerPoint.

    You’ve probably already seen it via Twitter Tamela! Its at:-


    Hope you like it.

    Know of any other “funny” videos using PowerPoint?

  6. Erik CB Olsen, PhD

    53% – that is how I started and ended a recently brief to staff. I big ole pie graph showing a large blue portion indicating the 53% piece. No words except “53%” on the slide. I wanted to audience to remember that one really. If the remembered other details fine, but the fact that we hit 53% for this certain measure was all that they really needed to know. The presentation was then about 10 minutes of material after that and some good discussion.
    -not an earth-shattering, inspiring presentation, but effective, easily understood and a refreshing change for a numerous bullet points and too much text on too many slides.

  7. Ah, the power of simplicity! I saw one of your slide makeover videos…good stuff. Thanks for reading.

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