Death By PowerPoint


According to Forbes.com, the six ways to avoid “Death By PowerPoint” are:

  1. Mix up your media
  2. Send content ahead of time
  3. Intersperse content with discussion, group exercises, and reflection time
  4. Give handouts
  5. Use eye catching software
  6. Use props

These six steps are crucial for delivering a successful PowerPoint presentation because it addresses all styles of learning and promotes audience engagement. Most people retain information better when they are actively engaged rather than just listening to someone relay information. The two items that never cross my mind when it comes to delivering PowerPoint presentations are send content ahead of time and giving handouts. From the article, I learned that it is important to send content ahead of time because it allows people to come prepared to discuss your content and ask questions rather than listen to your presentation. I also learned that handouts are important because people love knowing they don’t have to take full notes and can simple listen. Do you think sending content ahead of time makes your PowerPoint presentation pointless or enhances it? Do handouts lead to information overload?


5 Responses to Death By PowerPoint

  • Sending content ahead of time definitely has value, and it’s something i’ve never considered either. I think it’s tough in a classroom setting though, for a number of reasons. When doing school presentations, we’re pretty programmed to do exactly what the professor tells us, and I know that i’ve personally never had a professor to tell me to send my presentation to the rest of the class ahead of time. Another issue with that is that most people would probably ignore it. A lot of people would probably assume that since they’re going to see the presentation anyway, they don’t need to look at it ahead of time. There’s also the potential for people looking at the presentation ahead of time and then not attending the actual presentation, because they don’t feel the need to. I know that in many of my courses, when a professor provides slides ahead of time (especially if they aren’t making attendance mandatory), many students just look at the information on their own and then don’t attend the class at all.

    As far as handouts go, I think there needs to be a balance. The handouts should just highlight the main takeaways of the presentation (perhaps the 3 main points), so that even if people only remember 3 points, they can have them in writing with additional details. I think handouts need to be kept concise and pertinent to the subject matter, otherwise they can become distracting and cause information overload.

  • Sending out content ahead of time is definitely a good strategy, but only if the audience actually reads the slides beforehand and if the presenter then actively engages the audience. At least in the case of students, I think most students probably don’t look at the slides until the professor is covering them. For example, in class last Thursday, most of us had not looked at any of the required videos/readings for class, so the professor was not able to have a more engaging lecture. On the other hand, if the professor doesn’t engage, and the students have already read the slides, then I think students will just try to work on other things instead.
    As for the handouts, I agree with Jacklin in that there needs to be a balance. If the presenter just simply gives handouts with everything on it, then the audience more focus more on reading them instead of listening to the presenter. Providing handouts with only the main takeaways would be a good balance, though.
    As for the other points mentioned, I mostly agree with them. Mixing up the media, interspersing content, and using eye-catching software can certainly be good strategies to keep the audience interested in the PowerPoint. Using props can go either way though. I think that as long as the prop actually adds to the presentation rather than come off as silly of meaningless, then it can be a good tool.

  • I think it is crucial to send out PowerPoints prior to a presentation because it allows the audience members get a better idea of what the presentation will cover. It also allows the audience to come up with potential questions ahead of time, based off the slides. Also, by handing out copies, audience members can focus more on what you are saying and less on copying the words on the slides. For example, I have had several professors who would not provide slides prior to class. As a result, I would copy half the notes on the slides and only write down half of what the professor was saying. This caused me to have incomplete and ineffective notes. It’s important to handout slides prior, but I agree with John and Jacklin that it needs to be balanced. Having all the information a presenter will go over on the slides that are distributed to the audience would be an overload. Although it’s important to share slides ahead of time, for student presentations in class, they are not necessary. I feel many students aren’t listening to student presentations because they don’t need the information to pass the course.
    For the other points mentioned, I think mixing up media and using props can be problematic. First, with mixing up media, I feel a lot of people try to use multiple forms of media in their PowerPoint because they know it’s a good idea, but do it in a way that’s ineffective. I have seen many presentations put up media that doesn’t link to the topic or distract from it. One in particular I recall is a presentation on LEGOs. On one slide there was a picture of a person with a prosthetic leg made out of LEGOs which distracted myself as well as the professor, causing the image to take away from the main point of the presentation. As far as props go, I think it comes down to what the prop is and how it’s utilized. You can have a potentially good prop, but use it in a way that doesn’t convey the message.

  • I agree with James about the use of props. Especially in a professional setting, I think it would be very easy for props to become distracting. Either it’s going to make the discussion stray from the content, or it’s going to be such an obvious demonstration of what you’re trying to say that it’s also going to be ineffective. The only way to determine if the particular prop you have in mind is going to be effective is to really analyze the audience you’re going to be presenting to. If it’s you’re going to show a new type of software to a group of web developers, it’ll probably be well received. Showing that same software to high schoolers (in general) probably won’t have much on an impact.
    I also think that group exercises are effective only if the audience is familiar with one another. As a relatively introverted person, if I’m taking time out of my day at work to see a lecture and the speaker uses 20 minutes of that time to have me introduce myself and do a silly exercise with the person next to me, I’m probably going to be annoyed.

  • To expand on Jacklin and John’s points regarding handouts, I agree that handouts that contain only a presentation’s main points are the most effective. When studying for tests in lecture-based classes, I prefer reviewing handouts that outline main points to having to trudge through pages of my notes (most of which was copied directly from the slides, anyway). Along with making studying a more focused exercise, providing simple handouts frees up an audience to focus on the presenter’s verbal contributions and take notes elaborating on the presenter’s key remarks.
    Another idea that I have seen successfully and unsuccessfully employed is to give an audience handouts with fill-in-the-blank style main points—for example, “Artist Paul Gaugin made important contributions to the _________ art movement.” When successful, this tactic enhances audience engagement because it discourages audience members from “zoning out.” When unsuccessful, this tactic causes audience members to obsess over filling in their handouts, making them completely tune out spoken information unrelated to the handout’s points. As with any other technique, a presenter must understand his audience’s attention span and interest level.

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