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PowerPoint in the workplace


When I was an undergraduate, there was one professor whom I loved for his curt, crass, no-holds-barred sensibility. Whose classes I dreaded because of his lectures, which comprised of 100 PowerPoint slides-worth of information condensed into a gruff 50 minute speech. A black hole must have been located in the center of his classroom because time used to move at such a slow pace that only a malformation in the fabric of spacetime could explain it. Although, I became so adept at copying down the paragraphs of content on each slide that I never even had to look at my hands—I developed an acute passion for keyboard commands as well as carpal tunnel—however I was wholly unable of absorbing any of the content I copied while copying it.

Any knowledge I retain about international law, international security, or transnational terrorist movements is purely the product of devotedly reading the course texts and fruitful secondhand discussions with the professor. The problem? His presentations were packed with so many slides, and so much dense content, that his lectures, despite his ace personality, really weren’t effective (of course to combat this, I would, much to his dismay, force him to slow down by perpetually raising my hand). I once assumed this PowerPoint problem began and ended in college—I was wrong. Workplaces everywhere are, much to my dismay, abounding with PowerPoint abusers.

Author and Wall Street Journal contributor Nancy Durate reckons the perfect PowerPoint presentation is that which is both cerebral and aesthetic, “unifying mind and emotion.” Durate suggests that putting together a presentation in PowerPoint involves more than just slapping some content and images on a slide and calling it a day, and outlines the following helpful tips.

  • Tip #1: Choose images wisely. Durate recommends that you “keep slides simple” and “use the glance test”: “A slide’s message should come across in two or three seconds.”
  • Tip#2: Simplify complex ideas. When writing the content of a presentation you should reduce complex ideas into key points, says Durate. “Think of each slide as being a single word in a sentence,” she says.
  • Tip#3: Don’t convolute your message. A PowerPoint presentation should “serve as a mnemonic device” which demonstrates “how your message matters to real people.” Using crazy fonts, insane color palates, or “rainbow-colored bar charts might be overwhelmingly visual, but it doesn’t make an emotional impression,” says Durate.