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Have You Ever Died of PowerPoint Presentations?


death by powerpoint

Today I had the privilege to attend a so-called workshop on Teacher Anger Management. The presenter holds a PhD in educational psychology and has been conducting workshops and training sessions for many years. What made the workshop unusually tedious and droning was how the presenter used PowerPoint as a tool to replace him. I mean, here is a PhD holder in educational psychology and an experienced teacher trainer, yet he does not have any clue on effective presentation, regardless of the presence of a visual aid such as the PowerPoint. He clearly didn’t have a clue on the basics of multimedia theories and practices. If he had ever read anything in terms of working memory and long term memory and the effect of the verbal and visual channels on the attendees’ minds, he would’ve definitely revamped his presentation and restructured his workshop. At the end of the workshop, teachers said that they learned one important thing from the workshop: Not to use this type of  PowerPoint presentation with their students (At least they learned something !!)

There I was with dozens of other teachers reading aloud words packed and squeezed on all slides of  the PowerPoint to all participants because the trainer wanted it to be an “interactive lecture” where the participants interacted [with the content, trainer, themselves? Not sure really!]. I lost interest from the first 10 minutes of the four-hour workshop, and continued this way the whole time!!!

So what do we have here? A presenter/trainer uses a PowerPoint to replace him (He could’ve just emailed us the PowerPoint and saved us a lot of anger). Bad PowerPoint presentations are found everywhere, in the classrooms, lecture rooms, business section, etc., and the audience/participants have to endure “Death by PowerPoint”.

In the 21century, literacy and communication are not the ability to read and communicate through words only. The ability to use the combination of verbal and visual modes effectively to engage your listeners is a have-to-have skill in this digital-visual age.

Thankfully, there are many multimedia theories that we can refer to help us on integrating audio and visual components.

Many professional presenters engage their audience by using PowerPoint as a visual aid, not more. This means that PowerPoint should be mainly images and metaphors with only keywords of the presenter’s points. In fact, most professional presenters use storyboarding to guide their presentations (But this is another story, for another post perhaps) . Below are two great Slideshows on how to avoid bad PowerPoint presentations. Please note that some of texts on the slides are intentionally added because these are stand-alone slideshows (that is, there is no presenter).

Death by PowerPoint by Alexei Kaptere

This outstanding slideshow depicts bad PowerPoint presentations and how to fight dying by PowerPoint.


Dodging Bullet Points

This slideshow also presents what is meant by a bad PowerPoint presentation and how to avoid using bullets that would shoot and kill your audience due to boredom.



Here Are Some Links to Improve Your PowerPoint Presentation


Want to Read Some Great Books on PowerPoint Presentation and Design?

Unlock the amazing story buried in your presentation—and forget boring, bullet-point-riddled slides forever! Guided by communications expert Cliff Atkinson, you’ll walk you through an innovative, three-step methodology for increasing the impact of your presentation. Discover how to combine classic storytelling techniques with the power of visual media to create a rich, engaging experience with your audience. Fully updated for PowerPoint 2010, and featuring compelling presentation examples from classroom to boardroom, this book will help transform your presentations—and your business impact!


No matter where you are on the organizational ladder, the odds are high that you've delivered a high-stakes presentation to your peers, your boss, your customers, or the general public. Presentation software is one of the few tools that requires professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void.

Presentation designer and internationally acclaimed communications expert Garr Reynolds, creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net — — shares his experience in a provocative mix of illumination, inspiration, education, and guidance that will change the way you think about making presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote. Presentation Zen challenges the conventional wisdom of making "slide presentations" in today’s world and encourages you to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of your presentations. Garr shares lessons and perspectives that draw upon practical advice from the fields of communication and business. Combining solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity, this book will help you along the path to simpler, more effective presentations.

Other books:


All the links and books above use cognitive theory of multimedia learning and findings of cognitive science and neuroscience research in guiding the writings and how-tos. In later posts I will share with you, in details, some multimedia theories and how these can be put into practice to produce stunning presentations that capture the audiences’ minds and hearts through the careful design and mix of the verbal and the visual.

Implications for Teacher-led Classroom Presentation

Many ideas can be extrapolated from the above discussion and links. I would like to leave this part for you to comment on. What do you think are the implications for teacher-led classroom presentation would be? How can teachers redesign their PowerPoint presentations to engage their students and gain their interest instead of boring them to death?

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