Don't Become a Perpetrator of Power Point Pain

How You Can Tell Your Power Point Presentation is Crap

We’ve all been in that pointless meeting, attended the prerequisite college course or been subject to the painful sales pitch when the corresponding Perpetrator of Power Point Pain (we’ll call him or her “4P” from now on) gets up to speak.  It’s easy to tell when someone else’s presentation is complete crap but after the hours of torturing yourself over font selection, where to cleverly place the company logo and just the right “fly in from right” path it can be difficult evaluate your own work. We can only guide you here as to the presentation itself and not the content as there’s a certain amount of subject-matter expertise required to tell if content itself is crap. (The only time you can be positive your own content is crap is if you happen to be a member of Congress or the Press).

You can determine if you’ve become the 4P in three ways: 1. The Process you used to create the Presentation. 2. Looking at the presentation itself, without reading it. 3. The reaction of people in the room, but by then it’s too late, of course. We’ll examine each in turn:

The Process of Making a Crappy Presentation

The fundamental point of using a Power Point presentation, or any slide show, it so you have visual support for what you are trying to communicate. The visuals are there to support YOU. You are not there to act as an accessory to the visuals. You can easily tell if you are becoming the 4P if you find yourself putting a script on the slide for you to read. You should use bulleted text to remind you of your main points. It’s not karaoke. When you find yourself reducing the font on just about any slide so you can put more material on the image, don’t

If you find yourself scanning in a document for the content and not just the object itself, you are definitely becoming a 4P. You can scan in a brochure if you must, but only to show what your brochure looks like, not so you and your audience can read it. You can scan in a form or written document only to use as background to a cartoon bubble of the few things you need to highlight, not for its content. Hey 4P, I’m talking to you!

No beginning. No end. The basics of any meeting, not just one with a presentation in it, should include an Agenda and a Conclusion. The Agenda doesn’t have to be long and the Conclusion might only be a “what we do next” slide, but both must be there. If the only reason your presentation stops is because you’ve run out of things to say, you ARE a 4P. Set an Agenda, follow it with visuals, and then Conclude when the last item is presented.

Visual Review – Crappy Presentations Can’t be Read

The visual review of the slide show is probably the easiest way to avoid joining the ranks of your office’s 4P tribe. The downside to relying on this method is that the presentation is usually already complete before this method is effective.

Once you have your presentation complete, or have at least a significant portion of it done, go get someone else from the office. (It actually works best with a stranger unfamiliar with the material being presented, but an uncomfortable conversation with a woman, and later a police officer, at a local convenience store has convinced me not to recommend this anymore). The tricky part then is to choose someone who does not work for you, for whom you do not work, and who has no romantic interest in you whatsoever. Stand back from your computer about 6 feet, launch your slide show and ask them if they can read it. You must use another person for this because after hours of work, and more ahead if you need to correct it, you simply cannot be objective. If you find yourself EVER saying: “I know you can’t read this, but…” then delete the whole thing and start again.

The Visual Review method is a great way to check on; crowding content, see if they squint, color schemes, if they get angry you’ll understand why you don’t use a red background (unless your Coke), and special effects, if they make the “ooooh” sound or giggle it’s too much. Don’t be a 4P, do a visual review!

Audience Reactions Before and During a Crappy Presentation

The easiest time to tell if you’re a 4P is before and during the presentation. If you have a reputation as a 4P the story is told as soon as your audience starts walking in the door. People will jolt to a stop in the doorway as if they just realized they’re about to step off a subway platform. Coffee spills. Papers fly. Hello 4P. If you’re attendees are upper management they have much more experience in masking this initial reaction. You might just see a face go slack, or they might suddenly pat their pockets like they’ve forgotten something and rush back out the door. If your attendees put their notepads down, then go back to their desks to get something to read or do while the meeting takes place, you are already a 4P.

During the presentation the signs are equally simple to see. First of all, if you have to lower the lights so much it difficult to see people in the middle rows, you ARE a 4P. Turning off the lights is a sign your presentation is too dark, or you’re frightened of the crowd. Either way: U=4P. The other signs are obvious, but it’s difficult to tell if you’re a 4P, your coworkers hate you, or your audience is just rude. Texting, joking, passing notes, dozing off, and standing up and leaving right in the middle.

If you discover yourself to be a 4P in the middle of your presentation simply stop torturing everyone, turn up the lights and suggest that you move right to the Q&A portion of the meeting. Next time you’ll be ready because you printed out: How You Can Tell Your Power Point Presentation is Crap” and read it before creating every presentation.

There are some fabulous books available for more tips on how not to become a Perpetrator of Power Point Pain! My favorites are Presentation Zen and slide:ology.