Death to PowerPoint?

The title of this blog is a little misleading.

I’m not actually proposing “death to PowerPoint”. I don't hate PowerPoint. I don't even dislike it. In fact, I actually think it's one of the most useful persuasive tools ever devised. What I am proposing with this blog is death to bad PowerPoint.

You know bad PowerPoint, you’ve seen it. Heck, chances are that if you’re reading this you’ve probably created some of it. Maybe even a lot of it. It’s OK. You can admit it. You’re among friends here.

It’s not your fault. I’ll bet that if you create bad PowerPoint it's because you’ve been exposed to nothing but bad PowerPoint. Ask yourself, how many times have you sat through an inane lecture, sales meeting or motivational secession staring at slide after endless slide thinking I’d rather hang myself than sit through another minute of this.

If all you've ever seen is bad PowerPoint then how can you be expected to create anything but?

But before I get started here on what’s wrong with most PowerPoint presentations and how to improve them, for my first post I thought that I would start off with a little history lesson.

In case you’ve never heard of it, or (like me until a few years ago) had it on your PC and never used it, Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a presentation program for the Windows and Mac OS operating systems. PowerPoint is one of the most useful and popular applications developed since the advent of the personal computer in the early 1980s. It’s widely used by businesspeople, educators, and trainers as a visual presentation aid; Microsoft claims some 30 million presentations are made with PowerPoint every single day and there are at least 130 million users worldwide.

Since it’s nearly ubiquitous on the PC, few people realize that PowerPoint was originally developed for the Mac. It was originally called Presenter (the name was later changed due to trademark problems) by Bob Gaskins and Dennis Austin and released through a software company called Forethought in 1987 as a simple program that could display black and white slides and print overhead transparencies. Microsoft acquired Forethought and PowerPoint later that year, rolled the software in to it’s Office Suite of software and the rest is history.

In PowerPoint text, graphics, movies, and other objects are positioned on individual pages or "slides" (the term "slide" is a reference to slide projectors, which have been rendered practically obsolete thanks to PowerPoint). Slides can be printed, projected using an LCD projector, or displayed on-screen and navigated through at the command of the presenter. Transitions between slides can be animated in a variety of ways, as can the emergence of elements on a slide itself. All in all it’s an extremely nifty piece of software and a great way to communicate information visually.

The problem is that I estimate that up to 90% of the people who use PowerPoint have no idea how to visually communicate information effectively. That’s why there’s so much bad PowerPoint out there and hopefully, in some small way, this blog will help to do something to change that.

Because honestly, I'd rather hang myself than sit through one more lousy PowerPoint presentation.