More Banjo. Less PowerPoint.
During the early planning sessions for this year’s Confluence Conference this theme came to life. It grew out of dual discussions about celebrating the anniversary of the movie Deliverance and the need to limit speakers’ use of PowerPoint.
I have read other anti-PowerPoint stories. For example, if you pitch to Jeff Bezos with Amazon, you need to write it in prose and not use PowerPoint. However, PowerPoint backlash had finally reached into the water sphere. I loved it.
While it’s easy to blame PowerPoint, I think we forget life without PowerPoint. Besides working harder for way less slides, people really had only two ways to develop a presentation.
- Color 35mm slides. I still remember the sound of clicking through my dad’s circular tray on our Kodak Carousel as we showed slides of past family vacations. In the corporate world, whole departments assisted in the creation of slides at a cost cost of hundreds of dollars per slide. The processing could take a few days. Could you imagine not having the ability to change your slides the night before?
- Overheads. Born out of the Army during World War II, overhead projectors proliferated first in bowling alleys to project scoring and then became popular in schools. In 1965 over 100,000 overhead projector units were sold.
A couple weeks ago I read Robert Gaskins book “Notes about Inventing PowerPoint” (Not an affiliate link). I know. Who reads a book about inventing PowerPoint? This is pretty much as geeky as it gets, but honestly it was revealing.
Robert Gaskins who worked for a small company called Forethought realized something profound in 1985. He calculated that business presentations were a 6 billion dollar market in need of software that could utilize the growing power of the personal computer. He visualized presentation software where the best feature was personal control. They studied a batch of 400 used overheads and found the following design trends in the batch:
- Title above a diagram, 30%
- Title above a diagram above a single-level bullet list, 28%
- Title above a single-level bullet list, 12%
They used these observations as the starting point as six people, including Robert, built the first features. PowerPoint 1.0 launched in April in 1987. It was designed for Mac only and an instant success. Later that year, Microsoft bought Forethought. This was not a bad decision, since in 2010 Microsoft announced PowerPoint was installed on over a billion computers.
So, how to love PowerPoint more and use it less:
- Start with Slide Count. For me, I start with maximum not to exceed slide count. Think of this as the Twitter 140 character method. If you keep your presentation to ten slides, for example, you have to delete the fluff. Believe me, deleting slides is a powerful way to edit.
- Add more Stories. I have been reading the “Winning the Story Wars” by Jonah Sachs (not an affiliate link) about how those who tell and live the best stories will rule the future. He really hits home how stories rev up our ability to understand and respond to complex scenarios. I know I can do better here.
- Use Pictures. According to Carmine Gallo, he reports the “brain processes information more effectively when the information is presented in pictures and words instead of words alone. Neuroscientists have also found that when a slide (or advertisement) contains pictures and words, it’s best to have the picture on the left side of the page or slide and words on the right”. He reported this is what Bezos did last week during his presentation.
I am sure there are plenty of other ways to use it less. What have you tried?
Confluence Conference, a regional water resources conference, begins this Thursday, September13, in downtown Greenville, SC. There is still time to register. Check out the agenda here.