Pattie Rydlun Blog

Getting you on the right track

The Powerless PowerPoint!

I’m moving to Switzerland because of what happened over 30 years ago. It was the beginning of the end for me! If I stay here, I don’t think I can change anything but the good news for me is I think I’ll find safety in Switzerland. I won’t be shunned from society for my beliefs because there is a political party in Switzerland formed specifically to ban what scares me a lot…wait for it…PowerPoint. The Anti-Power Point Party was first mentioned in Switzerland in 2011. This party worked to decrease the use of PowerPoint in professional presentations. They claimed that PowerPoint software was economically harmful.

It started over 30 years ago by a young Berkeley PhD. student named Robert Gaskins. Remember that name and remember it’s his fault. Think of him when your eyes are glazing over watching another bulleted, 10,000 word slide being read to you by a presenter at your next business meeting, lecture or class.

Gaskins had good intentions. And depending where you stand on the use of PowerPoint, it has become the international standard for presentations. So how did this glut of PowerPoint happen?

In 1984, Gaskins wanted to figure a way to easily present information on slides on his Macintosh that would be engaging. He started working for a company in Silicon Valley and eventually hired a developer named Dennis Austin, and later Thomas Rudkin.

It was designed for Apple’s MacIntosh and was originally called PRESENTER. Because of trademark rules it was changed to PowerPoint in 1987. That same year Microsoft SWOOPED in and bought it for $14 MILLION. I think they saw the slide…er, writing…on the wall.

Gaskins went to work at Microsoft and with a team developed PowerPoint until it became the influential product that it is today. In 2012, Gaskins wrote a book appropriately named Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of PowerPoint. Kind of an appropriate title, because when I see another slide with bullets on it, I am sweating bullets.

The purpose of PowerPoint was to be more engaging. Today it’s often the process used to get people’s eyes to glaze over from all the bullets and content while the presenter reads the slides with his back to the audience.

PowerPoint wasn’t that big of a deal in the beginning because there was a learning curve for people AND it didn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles that it has now. As time went on, Gaskin and his team not only made it more manageable but added more formatting tools: you could have the words come flying out onto the page, the words can even look scary or funny and also be many different colors, you could include charts, graphs…there’s no end to it all and don’t forget now you can have web integration and animate everything on the page and throw in some music or animal sounds! If you want you can even broadcast it everywhere. People can download it, read it without any help, and get dizzy all by themselves in the privacy of their own home.

Here’s where I stand on this: I don’t want to see another PowerPoint. Matter of fact I wish it never existed. Oh I know some of you love PowerPoint…honestly though, I don’t see the power in PowerPoint. I think it depletes your power.

I wonder if you could give your presentation without it. I believe that most of the content ought to not come from the slide. Wouldn’t it be better use of your presentation to connect and engage with your audience? Could you tell a story about the concept you want them to understand? Please don’t inflict those reams of slides with thousands upon thousands of words on them in 8 point font size. Really who can actually read that??? Not even the presenter…or shall we say the “powerpointer?”

Furthermore…why should I read them? Aren’t YOU supposed to present the information to me in some engaging, enrolling, even exciting manner so I understand it or learn something new or maybe even want to buy what you are selling?

If you want me to read while you are reading you can put it up on the screen, start it, and SIT down. I don’t need you to read to me or with me. I learned how to read when I was little. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to be there. Just email it in.

Do you ever proofread what you put on your slides? I don’t think so. I cringe when I see a typo on the slide, never mind a grammatical error. Don’t you think enough of me to proofread your work, check it to make sure everything is correct, and that it all makes sense? Have someone else do a cold read to catch anything you may have missed. Or—were you just so happy it was done that you didn’t want to go back and look at it again?

PowerPoint is SUPPOSED to be a TOOL, not a crutch, something that enhances the content and presentation, makes it clear, and visually drives home a point.

If you insist on using PowerPoint, a word of caution here: beware of technical difficulties. Murphy’s Law is always lurking when it comes to the equipment…anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I get nervous when I hear, “Bear with me a moment everyone, we seem to be having technical problems” or “I’ll fix this in a minute.”

The key to solving the technology issue is to be prepared to give your presentation WITHOUT the ubiquitous PowerPoint. Practice your presentation to the point that no matter what happens you can touch, move, inspire, and inform your audience. Don’t make them work too hard to understand your message. Make that your goal whether you use PowerPoint or not. And always find ways to…

  • Keep the end in mind.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep them laughing.
  • Keep them engaged.

I would have put this on a PowerPoint, but I’m in a rush because I’m packing for Switzerland.

Send me an email about how you use or don’t use PowerPoint. Stay tuned I’ll be giving you some pointers about PowerPoint if you absolutely, positively, insist on using it!

Let’s find a solution for the weakest link of your business. Go here to sign up for a complimentary session with me.

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