Clear Comm Consulting

Will PowerPoint be the death of us?

Mar 1, 2005

Let’s see a show of hands. Who here has watched, eyes glazed over, as someone stands at the front of the room going from one slide to the next on “the endless PowerPoint?”

It was a topic I recently discussed with Robert McDowell, Vice President at Microsoft Corporation. You might think a computer guy would be the strongest supporter of PowerPoint and similar presentation tools. You would be surprised. McDowell is going around the country with a simple message: All the technology won’t do you any good if you’re not really reaching people.

One of the most engaging and well-paid speakers in the country is former football coach Lou Holtz. Have you ever seen his PowerPoint? He doesn’t use one. At $50,000 a speech, he entertains, teaches and moves audiences without a single piece of technological wizardry.

While not all of us have the story spinning skill of Lou Holtz, his example reminds us all that it is the message and the messenger first, then all of the other things fall in line behind.

Here are few pointers for the PowerPoint user.

1. It’s a great tool.
And it is. But it is just a tool. It is not a replacement for content, relevance, passion or anything else that matters to your audience.

2. Know how to use it.
If you use PowerPoint, be sure you take some time to learn more than the basics. With each passing year there are more great ways to tell your story in a clear and compelling way using PowerPoint, but you or someone you work with needs to know those tricks. They can really pay off.

3. Don’t overload the slides.
We’ve all seen the jam packed slide that’s filled with words, arrows and diagrams. It means everything to the speaker. She or he is sure this is the part of the presentation that will knock everyone out. Instead they’re all out there scratching their heads. A few (three at most) points per slide is a great rule. Also, if you have 60 slides for a :30 minute presentation you need to scale back. (A good rule of thumb is one slide per minute.)

Take it from one of the sharpest minds at Microsoft. The technology is terrific and moving ahead all the time. But it still can’t take the place of good messages clearly presented by a well-prepared, knowledgeable human being.

ClearComm Note: Our work has been honored with another national television production award. A Telly Award was given to “Your Guide to the Glendale Arena.” The program is a tour of the new arena in Glendale, AZ, which is rated the “best new major concert venue in North America” by Pollstar Magazine. This is the third Telly ClearComm has received.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected]

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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