THE POWERPOINT COMEDIAN

Most people whose jobs require that they sit through many presentations are well-acquainted with the concept (if not the term) of “death by PowerPoint.” It’s a reference to any number of excruciating presentation types. Perhaps the worst offender is the presenter who subjects you to copy-heavy slide after copy-heavy slide, and makes it worse by assuming that you’re illiterate, so he reads every word to you.

I have many PowerPoint peeves, but the one that annoys me the most is the goofy slide that’s stuck into the middle of the presentation in an effort to lighten the mood. It may be a silly image, may be a bad joke, may be a scene from a popular movie, may be some animation that the presenter has cribbed from YouTube – I’ve seen all those and worse.

Look, a goofy slide or two isn’t going to save your PowerPoint. A dull, lifeless presentation doesn’t become compelling because you’ve tossed in a joke. If anything, it becomes less gripping, because you’ve disturbed the flow and consistency. You’re moving along in a particular style and at a steady pace, and you suddenly throw something jarring in there. Yes, you’ll startle and wake up the audience, but you’ll get their attention in the wrong way. Belching loudly or dropping your trousers would be just as effective.

To make your presentations effective, keep them consistent. Either you’re going to be funny, or you’re going to be serious. Don’t jump from one to the other. And no matter how cute that image you’ve found or how funny that clip you’ve watched is, resist the temptation to shove them into your presentation. You’re a presenter, not a comedian.

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