June 5, 2008

PowerPoint disaster

My least favorite presentation at the World Tea Expo was a report that could have been really interesting and engaging had the presenter chosen to take a different approach.

Instead, it was an example of everything that can go wrong when a presenter relies entirely on data pasted into PowerPoint to make his presentation.

Each line was capitalized like a book title:

APTI Germinates, Morphs Into STI

The slides were packed with bulleted text, each line divided by colons, semi-colons, commas, parentheses and random punctuation into mini-points within points (yes, you're seeing an exclamation point next to a comma):

The 'Faith' Germinal Years: Multi-Unit Chains? How About Profitable Single Units!, Coffee BuZzzzz

Lots of bullets included completely cryptic text that made no sense until explained:

Why Bother? No Choice Soon = Science (testing) Advances, Media 'Instant Messaging' Globally, Risk Management, Sustainability No Longer Altruistic

Then there were the lines using abbreviations and ampersands to make more room to fit more stuff:

Sales of tea USA $10 Billion 2010 (now conveniently "$12B" or "we predict $10B") & 1,500 Tea Outlets

And in general, there was just too much text per bullet, per slide (the busiest slide had twelve lines of text plus a title):

An Ironic Mechanism for Global Crisis Support: The International Energy (fuel, capital, health) Drought Macrocosmically Reflects Upon Personal & Business Energy Shortages -- The Power of Tea to Unite, Energize, Focus & Revive is Infinite

On the one hand, the speaker read pretty much directly from the slides, so technically, we could have taken the slides as handouts and not wasted time sitting there.

On the other hand, much of the text was so mysterious that we never could have understood it without the explanation.

Overall, a disappointing way to spend an hour.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Rowan Manahan said...

The horror, the horror!

My most recent exposure to this kind of relentless text PPT left me unwell for days.

A partner from a Big4 firm was giving a technical presentation on a piece of legislation to colleagues from across his industry. 30 minute talk. 3400 words in his presentation (I checked!)

Up it went. White text reversed out of blue. And he proceeded to read it out to us, TLAs and all ...

My favourite moment - when someone from the audience stood up during Q&A and said, OUT LOUD, "I may have been asleep when you covered the XYZ, so sorry if you've already covered this, but could you explain XYZ again?"

The most astounding thing - no one laughed; there was no horror-struck intake of breath and the presenter, instead of falling honorably upon his sword, proceeded to calmly answer the question.

Far from there being no pride out there, the problem is that there is no shame whatsoever ...

Lisa Braithwaite said...

"Far from there being no pride out there, the problem is that there is no shame whatsoever ..."

Well said, Rowan. And a great story, too!

Anonymous said...


Sounds like a mind-numbing presentation. I especially like the use of the explanation point comma duo.

On a different note, here is an interesting entry from dictionary.com that I came across when trying to find just the right word to describe the dynamic found in those titles you mentioned:

Verbage spelling, jargon
/ver'b*j/ A deliberate misspelling and mispronunciation of verbiage that assimilates it to the word "garbage". Compare to content-free. More pejorative than "verbiage".

I would say that works pretty well.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Good one, Terry. I'm going to remember that!

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