Which is Worse, Abstinence or PowerPoint?

A Woman Says StopI’m sure this will shock you, but there’s a survey out showing that people hate PowerPoint. I mean really, really hate PowerPoint. They hate it so much that more than 40 percent would rather do their taxes or go to the dentist than sit through a PowerPoint presentation. Another 21 percent would rather work on a Saturday, and 25 percent would be willing to give up sex, though only for a day.

Although the sex part is the headline-grabber, it’s the dentist and tax preferences that got my attention. Maybe it’s a middle-age thing, but I know a lot of people who wouldn’t mind going to a slide show if it meant they could get a good night’s sleep.

But I digress. The survey comes from the VMWare company SlideRocket, which makes no bones about the fact it wants you to use its alternative when you’re getting ready for your next meeting. It’s got a nifty little presentation here. I’ll go so far as to say the survey’s legitimate (it was conducted by Zogby), though I don’t think the results are particularly surprising.

Truth is, PowerPoint gets a bad rap. It’s not the best software around, and its results aren’t particularly slick, but at the end of the day it’s the people who use it that are putting you to sleep. I don’t know where the idea that listing the 32 highlights of last quarter came from, but I’m pretty sure whoever first did it will spend eternity strapped into a chair, watching slides with no color and tiny type, presented by a speaker who drones on with all the enthusiasm of a concrete mixer.

A Clockwork OrangeI’ll make a suggestion out of all this. Keep your pitch as short as you possibly can. Skip the bullet points, and display only information that serves to illustrate or emphasize what you’re saying.  Don’t list 10 bullets at the beginning to show your meeting what you’re going to say. Just TELL them. Don’t use four slides to introduce the team that everyone in the room already knows, just thank the team at the end. And, for goodness sake, do you really believe anyone is really reading all the data you’ve crammed in? Please. Save it for the handouts.

Do those all sound familiar? You probably have worse examples. (Share them with a comment below.) The thing is you can make a lousy presentation no matter what tool you use. It’s like this: I have a nice fast PC at home, but it doesn’t help me use Photoshop any better.

Source: Slidewire
Movie Still: Wikipedia

9 Responses to “Which is Worse, Abstinence or PowerPoint?”

  1. During undergrad and graduate school “we” had to insist one of our team members cease and desist with the frequent use of motion and sound.

    I’ve seen PowerPoint presentations that contained spelling and grammar errors; those always help me take seriously the presentation and speaker.

    Poor choice of font and color schemes is always a winner, as well.

  2. Italia

    I beg to differ about PowerPOint. Okay, I am coming from a different angel. For years, I avoided PowerPoint. I took Script, UNIX, Excel, anything to keep me away from PowerPoint…because I thought it may be boring and I did not want to be a secretary and make boring slides for any boss. “Well”, due to the job market I decided to take what I called the ‘inky-dink’ mechanisim of PowerPoint. To my surprise I loved it….it is truly creative and made my creative juices flow; for my class presentation I did a presentation on my interior design company (my dream company) I was crazed, because, it really bought out what I truly am passionate about. Not to mention our instructor was very good and patient. If you knew what many presenter’s go through to set up a slide….one would stop complaining. Suffice to say compare to all the other softwares I have learned (including, Genisis, Edge..et al) PowerPoint is the best. My opinion.

  3. Andrew Wolfe

    PowerPoint is an exasperatingly stagnant and mediocre product. The worst problem I face with it is that slide deck reorganization or “refactoring” is totally unsupported. When you’re far enough along with the deck to see that you want to reorg, you’ve accumulated enough slides to make it a misery to do so with proper header slides, transitions, and such.

    I have my doubts as to whether Apple Keynote is better – I use the slide show thing, never satisfied with it.

    I never use transitions, animations, or audio at all. If my deck has substance, it doesn’t need window dressing.

  4. Victor Espinosa


    Have been with and without the tool to perform presentations, it is a tool not the whole on a presentation, like Mark says it requires a prepared professional to utilize tools and make asuccesful not boring presentation, it is to get people excited not to present lectures.

    It is amazing that some abuses the use of such to do all, the human touch and a smile achieves a lot more with only the right amount of information.

  5. Jim L.

    Power Point is a tool that can potentially be effective at giving presentations or it can be a good antidote to insomnia…

    I know many in the technical field who absolutely loath PPT. I know a number of Customers who will show you the door if you start pulling out PPT and do what is called PPT engineering.

    Now for the question at hand: “Which is Worse, Abstinence or PowerPoint?” I would go with PPT.

    Do I like creating PPT presentations? H@#% NO. In my experience, I have more fun having periodontal gum surgery with no anesthesia than to do create a PPT presentation… is it “safe” to say that?

    Is PPT sometime necessary? Yes. Sometimes it is a necessary evil but my preference is to do a live demonstration or to do a white board/chalk talk. This is far more effective and shows you have an in depth understanding of your subject matter. If I want to show graphs, I do my Excel thing so that I can show where the data is coming from. Only as a last resort do I do PPT..

    Interest question BTW…

  6. Sandra C

    I’ve rarely seen an effective PowerPoint presentation, but I’m sure they exist. I’ve also had the exciting task of putting together templates and editing/revising presentations for others.

    During my design days, I had some people ask me to make the header smaller. It was about 1/10 the height of the page. Why was I asked to make it smaller? So they could fit more information on a slide. That is what prompted me to create a presentation for the company called “How to Effectively Use PowerPoint”.

    In short, it came down to:
    – Don’t put every word you’re going to say on the page. PowerPoint should highlight and emphasize, not mirror the speaker’s words. Use presenter’s notes to ensure you don’t miss details.
    – Don’t use a transition between slides. The page turning is enough.
    – IF you use transitions, keep them simple.
    – Just because you can animate and add sound to a presentation doesn’t mean you should. If it doesn’t add anything to the presentation, leave it out.
    – Minimize the number of slides. YOU are what keeps the presentation interesting, not your slides. The less you have written down, the less likely you are to sound like a bored talking head. Your audience will thank you.

  7. Michael Thurlow

    Please read Edward Tufte on PPT. He argues, rightly I think, that it leads to poor thinking and bad engineering. It may be that the presenter has to realize the shortcomings of the outline format itself. It must not be the whole presentation any more than the table of contents is the whole book. Or rather, the presenters too often try to fit the whole book into the table of contents format.

    The software itself has problems (like text does not wrap to the next page, so if you have to insert a bullet point, the text after the insertion will not move automatically), but also the default styles of bullets, indents, etc. offered are ridiculous to anyone who knows quality design.

  8. PowerPoint presentations are not what they used to be. They really restrict interaction and audience participation which is what you want, especially considering all the money that is invested in the pitch. I think the term ‘death by PowerPoint’ really is rather true. People are turning to interactive presentation software instead. They offer far more than PowerPoint does and are arguably the future. Having said that, PowerPoint is still used by millions. I agree with the point you made about the speaker. If they are confident, have natural charisma and out very little on their slides, presentations may be bearable but they really are few and far between.