The Pummeled PowerPoint

When I joined Facebook eight years ago, one of the first things I did there was to start a group called “PowerPoint on perseestä!” (“PowerPoint sucks!”). In its roughness, the name of the group portrayed the feelings of a young designer towards the software in question with slicing accuracy. You see, amongst designers, PowerPoint work had already earned a reputation as one of the most annoying assignments then.

I even collected some quotes to my group that oozed the same kind of frustration. For example: “It’s like a plastic banana… Looks good but provides no nutritional value or sustenance.” – O-5, National Capital Region

I have since changed my mind. After creating hundreds of PowerPoint presentations I can attest that PowerPoint can really add value and substance to a presentation. These presentations have varied from small to medium-sized and all the way to big ones. For example, one time I was a part of a team that was sent to New York to work on and present the product launch presentation of a certain Finnish cell phone manufacturer.

Five tips for taming PowerPoint

When creating a PowerPoint presentation, the most important thing is to remember that you’re not creating the presentation for yourself but for your audience. The slides aren’t a checklist of the things you are supposed to say, but their job is to illustrate and distill your message so that the audience can better connect what they hear with what they see. So you should polish up your presentation skills and the script as much as the slides themselves.

Along the way I have learned five things that I want to share:

1. PowerPoint has many uses

You can make a presentation’s inner navigation using PowerPoint. You can make good-looking animations using PowerPoint. You can make a prototype of a website using PowerPoint. It just comes down to your imagination and taking the time to learn all the features of the software.

2. Distill

Always strive to make one slide about one thing only. If possible, a slide should only contain one word, sentence or picture. Trade in bullet points for a list of words, pictures or icons that you explain as you present. If the slide nevertheless contains bullet points, make sure that they are at least all connected to the same topic. Keep this basic rule in mind: You don’t have to write everything down on a slide, not even if you’re sending the presentation to someone.

3. PowerPoint presentations don’t have to be ugly

For many Finns, the first thing that comes to mind from the word PowerPoint is playing with it at school and making ugly animated texts, etc. But when you create a presentation the right way, you can make it look beautiful, clear and even nicely animated.

4. PowerPoint is for everyone

Anyone can learn to use the basic features of PowerPoint. However, you can easily move from the basics towards a more professional direction as long as the template you’re using is built on the right kind of a framework. When the template has been created by a professional, anyone can modify or create stylized text, pictures and other content.

5. Simple is beautiful

The most beautiful presentations I have made have been very simple. The animations are plain but well thought out. The pictures are calm and in harmony with the rest of the content.

So remember these tips the next time you open PowerPoint to outline your thoughts on the slides.