The plague that is Powerpoint

Ian Lurie

I’m striking out against the grand tradition of Powerpoint-as-outline, aka Powerlines. They’re a fatal illness breaking out at conventions, conferences and in board meetings across the country.
The authorities would like you to think this is all under control. But trust me, THEY WON’T DO ANYTHING until it’s TOO LATE, and we’re all barricaded in our homes, fending off thousands of zombified Powerpoint addicts.
So we must take matters into our own hands.
Powerpoint slides should serve as:

  • Counterpoint or emphasis;
  • Background; or
  • Illustration and support.

They should not be:

  • A word-for-word transcript of your presentation;
  • A detailed outline of same; or
  • Torture inflicted upon your audience by way of severe eyestrain.

An example: Emphasis

The slide at the beginning of this post is supposed to express the horrors that can happen when Ian Gets No Chocolate. So, instead of a bunch of words, what if we tried:
That image works admirably. Why? Because I, or the biologist who studies my corpse after I’ve been without chocolate for 3 full weeks, will be standing there. And I (or she) will be saying “Chocolate is good. Plus it keeps Ian from going insane. So when he hasn’t for any for a long time, it can get ugly. We’re just sayin’.”.

An example: Illustration/Support

Or, you can support the same statement with this:

Powerpoint doesn’t kill people…

…People filling Powerpoint slides with text kill people.
Pledge with me: “I shall not use Powerpoint as line-by-line documentation. I shall use Powerpoint to set environment and tone, and reinforce my presentation.”
Amen, brothers and sisters!

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  1. Haha, I’m converting a powerpoint with voiceover for online viewing for a client so this post came at a perfect time. I’m going to email it to him to emphasize what I have been saying all along.

  2. Amen AND alleluia
    What a timely article – as I prepare to try and mentor 15 x under-25 year olds on Presentation Skills… gulp.
    I am sure you have all heard of Garr Reynolds – but if you haven’t, I’d recommend viewing him in action at, eg (play the top left video).
    The problem is, intelligent people have got into the habit of using Powerpoint as an aide memoire (because ‘even’ intelligent people find presenting stressful). My 2 recommendations to everyone I talk to about presenting: 1. treat your presentation as a conversation (unintentional but appropriate synergy with your stance there, Ian) and 2. tell a story – don’t teach… and make your Powerpoint an interesting support tool, rather than the boring burden of your intellect!

  3. I’m torn between giving you your amen and telling you to shhhh, keep it down. I get a good amount of work narrating PP presentations word for word so people can then put them online or play them in a meeting without having to speak. However, when I’m on the viewing side of said presentations, well, ick. They are called bullet points for a reason people!

  4. On the whole bullet point theme, I feel like the guy in the movie that has been show 20-something times but is still kicking, bleeding helplessly in front of the shooter hoping he doesn’t pull the trigger one last time (the one that will clearly end it all). I decided to return to school for my masters a couple months ago and have since renewed my frustration with most powerpoints. In fact, in some classes I can print off the powerpoints before class, know exactly what we will be talking about, and get some work done while the professor is lecturing…hmmm, I guess they’re not so bad after all đŸ˜‰

  5. The toe tag graphic made me laugh out loud. There is a place for Powerpoint if you can make it go viral, Slideshare for instance.

  6. I like where you are going with this. PP presentations are old school. Not necessarily the technology behind them, but how people put them together and eventually present them. They just get to damn boring!

  7. I love your Death by PPT image, but love even more your message that PPT does not kill, but bad PowerPoint (text only slides) can. It does seem like it should be common sense . . . that PowerPoint slides should be used as “visual tool” not a projection of your text document.

  8. Have you seen the New Yorker cartoon with the devil interviewing a prospective demon?
    The devil says, “I’m looking for someone experienced in torture. Do you know Powerpoint?”

  9. I totally agree with you, Ian. There more things to be considered when you try to build presentation slides. Slides are just a tool, the one that should be star is the presenter, so keep it on a simple and clear design, not boring audience with too much words on your slides.
    Thanks for sharing

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