Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the New Enterprises class
(15.390A) at MIT and talk about startup funding. On my first PowerPoint slide,
my second bullet-point was (literally): "I Hate PowerPoint".
Don't get me wrong. I think PowerPoint, the software tool, is just fine. In
fact, I have a fair amount of respect for the programmers that built it. It's a
powerful application. What I hate about PowerPoint (and I guess, presentation
apps more generally) is what it does to me during my preparation as a speaker.
For some reason, as soon as I start creating slides for a presentation, my
passion slowly dies. Despite all my readings on PowerPoint best practices from the likes of Steve Jobs and Guy Kawasaki, and my
best efforts to keep things simple and powerful, I invariably get reduced to
this neurotic shell of my usually practical and passionate self and resort to
that horror of all horrors -- the bullet point. Then, it's all down-hill from
For the MIT event, I had actually decided not to create a PowerPoint deck.
After all, there's no rule anywhere that says you have to have slides to present
at MIT. Things were just hunky-dory (the first time I've ever used that phrase
in writing) until a few hours before my scheduled talk. Then, Brian Halligan
(my co-founder at HubSpot) casually says: "So, let's check out your slides for
the MIT talk". Curses! I tell him, "I don't have slides. I'm just going to
talk." To his credit, he didn't give me a hard time about it (we've had
conversations about my hatred for PowerPoint before). Then he went to lunch and
I was left questioning my decision. After a little while, I thought, "ok, maybe
a few slides can't hurt...will keep me organized...". I start PowerPoint.
To be fair, once I'm actually speaking, PowerPoint is not that bad and I've
gotten pretty good at having it not get in the way. I spent the 10 years of my
early entrepreneurial career doing a fair amount of public speaking and spent
most that time avoiding PowerPoint entirely. Oh, those halcyon days...
So, back to the MIT talk. The talk itself went great and I just had gotten
over my anger at PowerPoint today when I came across an article by Jeff Nolan
titled "PowerPoint And The Spoken Word". I agreed whole-heartedly
with the premise of the article, and loved this particular sound-bite: "The art
of business communication is not forever lost, but it has quite often never been
acquired largely because we have confused the medium with the message."
So, why do I hate PowerPoint? Because even though I know better,
it's just too easy to get lazy, resort to bullet-points and create slides for
the worst possible reason to create slides: Because you think you have to.
That, and I'm really doubtful that anyone in my audience (or yours) has thought
this in the first 5 seconds of a presentation: "He's got a PowerPoint deck.
Yah! Woo hoo!".
If I hate the talent and resources of Steve Jobs, I'd be able to create
slides just fine. But I don't (have the talent) and don't (have the resources)
so I don't like to create slides.
Hate PowerPoint because you love your audience.
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