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Presentation Etiquette, Please Don't be a Powerpoint Sadist

When it comes to presentations, there is no such thing as the old "Overhead Projector" anymore.  Just about every meeting room has a computer projector, and nobody uses clear overhead film.  Just about every presentation from a classroom to a boardroom is done with Microsoft Powerpoint.  Let's just get this straight, this rant is not anti-technology.  I only aim to point out certain things to avoid when using Powerpoint with its infinite detail capabilities when giving a presentation.  Remember, just because we can do things, doesn't mean we should. When it comes to putting every bell and whistle that Powerpoint has to offer into a presentation, just use some common sense, and have some mercy on the audience with these tips:

  1. One font at a time please.  Just because there are about a gazillion fonts available, doesn't mean you need to use the goofiest one to make your point stand out.  Use simple easy to read fonts, anything Gothic, cursive, or seemingly handwritten just looks stupid on the big screen.
  2. Try not to use more than three different font sizes in the same slide.  Even more important, don't use any font size smaller than 16 point unless it is a footnote, slide number, or other annotation.  Coming from a guy who just had a cataract surgery, sitting 10' or farther away makes a 12 point statement completely unreadable.
  3. Colors?  Unless it is a picture, a chart, or a graphic, keep the colors basic.  Using more than two or three colors, especially with animated text is enough to induce an epileptic episode.
  4. Animated text effects . . . .NO! And if you do it anyway, prepare to get your ass kicked!  Stepwise text that is timed or mouse activated is just fine.  Having your statements zoom onto the page while doing a loop da loop is just sophomoric.  Nobody gives a sh*t about how savvy you are so keep it simple!
  5. Make your bullet points brief and to the point.  If you put up paragraphs for people to read, they are going to zone out, or worse yet fall asleep.  Either way, they will think you are an idiot.
  6. While we are on the subject of bullet points, for the love of Mike don't read them verbatim to us, we aren't in kindergarten.  Remark on them, point to them, expound on them, but paleeeeeze don't read all of them to us.  This is especially important if you are one of those cowards who avoids eye contact with the audience.
  7. Charts, now this gets a bit technical . . . .KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!  Pretend you have never seen the chart before, and then ask yourself if you can understand your Microsoft Excel Masterpiece.
    • Line Charts:  Honestly, more than four lines and you are going to loose everybody.  Just look for the drool running down the side of their mouths and onto the printed copies that you so thoughtlessly ran off to waste paper.  (I am just going to throw it away afterwards anyway)
    • Its not an EKG dude!
    • Column and Bar Graphs:  Watch the colors on these bad boys.  You need to make sure you have contrast so with a bad projector you can tell the difference.
    • Pie Charts:   Now pay attention dummy, your pie chart shouldn't have any more slices than a pumpkin pie at a fat family's Thanksgiving Dinner!  That means eight (8) or less.  Nobody really gives two pinches of monkey sh*t about the .5% outliers, gather them into a section called . . .mmmmmm  MISCELLANEOUS!  If they are truly important, which they aren't, but if you insist, generate another pie chart that breaks down your smaller contributors and spare us the agony.
    • Last but not least, use 3-D only if it helps you illustrate your point.  If not, then you are just going to appear as a candy-ass, and everyone in the room with half a brain is going to know it.
    • Don't be a Jerk by making me look at this 
      Not so hard now, is it?
      To sum up all of this wisdom remember that you are making a presentation for a reason.  Someone has given you the task of analyzing a problem or selling a product and your presentation is the communication medium to accomplish that mission.  If you don't put quality information into your work, then you might as well shoot yourself in the head and save everyone time and trouble.  If you think that you can fool everyone into the room by putting all sorts of gimmicks and effects in your Powerpoint to compensate for a lack of substance, you are dead wrong.  Deep down, everyone would rather chew on bubble gum scraped from the sidewalk than listen and watch another Powerpoint presentation, but cest' la vie, that is what we have to do sometimes to make it through another grueling day.  You are taking away our time, so make it count with value information and quality data.  Time really is money.  If you throw up a piece of junk presentation, you are taking both time and money away from your audience, and that just isn't cool.


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