Improving PowerPoint-Style Presentations

Many people have developed a quasi-instinctive shudder at the mention of PowerPoint. It only takes a few badly designed slide decks, read more or less verbatim, and in a droning, flat tone, to put you off the format forever. Students’ relationship with PowerPoint is more ambivalent: some students love badly-designed, text-heavy slides, because, when the professor makes them available, they don’t have to take notes! Other students rely on PowerPoint’s ease-of-use as a crutch to get through presentations. For every student who appreciates having something to look at besides the instructor, there’s another who’s grateful to be able to sit back and passively absorb information–or nap. As is so often the case, however, the problem isn’t necessarily the tool, it’s how you use it.

With that in mind, Microsoft’s Doug Thomas offers some strategies for using PowerPoint more effectively (h/t George):

Thomas’s Office Casual blog post gathers up links to PowerPoint tips from the folks mentioned in this video: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and Garr Reynolds. And while most of the tips are presented in a business setting, there’s no doubt that the basic principles–fewer words! meaningful pictures! don’t talk too long!–apply in academe as well.

I started paying a lot more attention to slide design about a year or two ago, and it has been remarkable to notice how much more positively audiences–including students, though I don’t lecture a lot–react to well-crafted slides that supplement a story, rather than the traditional Death by PowerPoint.

Do you have a favorite presentation tip? Let us know in comments!

Related at ProfHacker: the occasional series, Challenging the Presentation Paradigm.

Image by Flickr user cogdogblog (Alan Levine), from the excellent set, The Last PowerPoint / Creative Commons licensed

Return to Top