Someone recently told me that nobody uses PowerPoint anymore. Has it really become obsolete, like the old slide projector?
Well, the person who told me that is a high school teacher. And perhaps today's teachers and students are using different tools for their classroom presentations.
But, from what I've seen at the healthcare and design conferences I've attended lately, a lot of people are still using PowerPoint.
And many are still creating bad PowerPoint presentations.
Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University, wrote a very intellectual criticism of PowerPoint in his book, "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint." Worth the read if you're interested in information design and visual literacy.
To be sure, many folks (especially design professionals) are using cool new presentation software other than PowerPoint. There are hundreds of other options that cost very little money.
But for those who are still using PowerPoint, here's 7 things you should avoid:
1. Too Many Bullet Point Slides
If you're going to use bullet points, avoid using them in every slide. Break them up with slides that just have images or words that make your point. Check out SlideShare for examples of non-bullet point presentations. Note: many presentations on SlideShare are meant to only be viewed. But you'll get the idea.
2. Too Much Descriptive Copy
If you must use bullets, don't add a bunch of descriptive copy in parentheses or at the end. Keep them short and simple. The descriptive copy is what your audience should be listening to you say, not reading it from a slide.
3. A Multitude of Fonts and Images
Many people go font- and image-crazy when they develop a presentation. Using too many different fonts and images in different sizes and colors on one slide creates visual chaos.
4. Formatting Inconsistency
Ever notice how magazines and newspapers have consistent formatting in headline styles, column widths, and other graphic elements? That's for readability. If you're going to use a slide template, stick with its consistent format.
5. Long Headlines (Titles)
Like bullet points, these need to be short and sweet. Never more than one line.
6. Really Small Charts
How many times have you heard a speaker say, "I know it's hard to read these charts, but..." Well, if your audience can't read the charts from the front or back of the room, why show them? Either improve your chart designs or figure out a non-chart way to present the information.
7. Clip Art
Chances are, if you're using clip art, you couldn't find (or didn't look) for anything else to help illustrate your point. Unless you're trying to be cheesy, don't use it. Tap into resources for royalty-free stock photography on sites like Dreamstime or iStock. So what if you spend a few bucks? It's worth it.
If you're ready to break free from PowerPoint, check out this article: "Best Presentation Software: 10 Alternatives."
Or, if you want to know more about making effective visualization color choices for sharing data, check out this article: "The Right Colors Make Data Easier to Read."
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