Avoiding "Death by
©2002 Corbin Ball Associates
I was interviewed in the November 2002 issue of PCWorld Magazine regarding the use of technology, and specifically PowerPoint, in presentations. Here is the interview in its unabridged form.
Q. How do you avoid “death by PowerPoint?”
We have all been there -- sitting through computer presentations with
endless screens of boring text. As we struggle to keep our eyes open, the phrase
“Death by PowerPoint” comes readily to mind. Of course, it is not the
program that is the problem but the *poor use* of the program that causes the
As a professional speaker who
speaks more than sixty groups each year, I use computerized presentation programs
in nearly every presentation I give. I have given much thought and have learned
by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. So, if you ever have to make a
presentation or deal with non-professional speakers who use computer
presentation programs, here are my tips for good PowerPoint use:
Q. What about using Web technologies as an alternative to a slide show? Have you done that? How do you use Web sites and Web technologies in your presentations?
I use a wide range of products demonstrating the technologies I am
speaking about. Palm emulators, flash animation, streaming video, avatars,
and many others – anything that I can load on my hard drive rather than pull
down live from the web. These offer a change of pace and add interest. I almost
never go online during my presentations. Instead I use screen shots
of the web sites. Aside from significant reliability issues, with screen shot
captures one can frame the image, enlarge the text, focus on just one part of
the page, use circles or other annotation devices.
principal challenge of showing Web pages in front of a group is that a monitor
and a projection screen are not the same. Most of the time, the font on a web
site is way too small and the information too densely packed for group viewing
on a screen By pasting screen captures from web sites into the PowerPoint
program, carefully cropped and sized, the presenter can make a point about a web
page much more strongly, more reliably and much easier than trying to navigate
online. There is nothing worse when
doing presentations on technology for the technology not to work. Capturing
screenshots of the web sites and pasting into the PowerPoint program usually
completely eliminates these issues.
exception to the above is when I do a presentation on Virtual Meetings where I
go online connecting to a remote location to not only talk about, but truly
demonstrate this technology.
What are some of the biggest technological snags presenters encounter at
customer sites? How do you overcome them? Have you got any
"emergency tools" that you carry?
The biggest snag I see, as mentioned above, is trying to go online in front of
the audience. It is the kiss of death, especially for technology speakers, to be
screwed up by technology. I you must demonstrate a web site and can't simply use
screenshots, save it to your
hard disk instead of going online. Also, change your screen properties setting to large fonts, which
will enlarging the navigation buttons and image by 20%.
other snag is not having multiple backups. For every presentation I give, I
always carry the PPT presentation (and the other demo programs) on a CD that is
*not* in my PC case. I also post the program to a password-protected portion of
my web site just in case. I have used both of these options in the past two
years avoiding what would have been disaster.
I also carry backup advance mechanisms and laser pointer batteries for
the same reason.
Q. What kinds of images or other digital media "sell" a product or an argument these days?A. Streaming video, flash demos, and other multimedia images can be quite powerful if used judiciously – remember, the speaker is the show, not the program. The real sale comes from your passion in your topic and your ability to convey it.
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