Maybe because I worked at Microsoft for three years I really can’t stand Microsoft PowerPoint. Every time I start a presentation I joke that I will not force my audience to sit through boring slides so I won’t be using PowerPoint today. This joke NEVER fails to get applause. Why? Because we’ve all seen boring presentations.
To undernote just how powerful PowerPoint’s pull on people is, one day I was hanging out in the Starbucks on Sand Hill Road with a famous venture capitalist. We came across the team from RedBeacon. You know them because they won Techcrunch 50. But this day the team was going up and down Sand Hill Road looking for funding (they were successful on that visit because they raised $7.4 million).
But they were working on their pitch, using Microsoft PowerPoint. I could tell it was the kind of pitch that bores the hell out of me. You know, the standard nine slides with nine points each. A slide for the market opportunity. Another one for the team. That kind of thing.
I turned to my VC friend and asked him whether he liked sitting through PowerPoint slides like this. He answered “no.” But the team went back to work on the slide deck anyway.
It’s too bad, because there’s a far better tool to use for doing presentations. It’s Prezi and here I interview CEO Peter Arvai about the new collaboration features they turned on last night and also see some of the ways you can use Prezi to make better presentations. (You can follow Peter on Twitter here).
I’ve studied why PowerPoint is so boring. There are several problems with it:
1. It forces you into linear thinking. “First we’ll talk about the market opportunity, then we’ll talk about the team, then we’ll talk about the challenges, etc etc.”
2. It encourages you to put a lot of words on screen. The best way to make a boring slide is put more than nine words on it. Have you ever seen Steve Jobs with a slide that has more than nine words on it? I haven’t. Yet in PowerPoint it happens nearly every slide. Why? It affords that.
3. PowerPoint doesn’t give you control over typography. All slides have the same crappy look. Why? Because you can’t use custom typography easily. I remember watching the guy who designed Bill Gates’ slides. He rarely used the tools inside PowerPoint, rather he’d design the slides in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and import them into PowerPoint as graphics. That’s why Bill Gates’ slides always looked better than average PowerPoint users, but it was very hard and took a very talented graphic designer to do.
4. PowerPoint doesn’t let you collaborate nicely with other people.
5. Adding motion to PowerPoint is difficult and when Microsoft makes it easy it rarely is to focus on the message. With Prezi you can zoom in, which gets your audience to pay attention to the message. It’s the ultimate “drill down.” But with PowerPoint, when you find the animation tools, it affords flying text or goofy cartoons that will fly in on your slides. Looks like amateur hour, which is why most professional presenters don’t use these tools, but even when you use them they don’t add much to your points.
Anyway, if you want to do better presentations, you should visit the Presentation Zen blog, and you should use Prezi instead of Microsoft PowerPoint.
By the way, Prezi is hosted on Rackspace and we’re very proud to be hosting this very cool company that was invested in by TED, too.