OnStartups

Why I Hate PowerPoint and You Probably Do Too

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on April 8, 2008 17 Comments

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 there.

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. Curses!

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.