Some Prefer No Sex to Bad PowerPoint

imageA new survey by online presentation company, SlideRocket, confirms what we already know – nobody wants to sit through another bad PowerPoint presentation. What caught my eye was just how badly people were turned off by PowerPoint. In SlideRocket’s survey of 1,000 adults who use business software on a daily basis, 24% said that they would rather forgo sex (tonight) than sit through a PowerPoint presentation.  Of course, “tonight” is an important caveat to the question. I don’t know about you but I’d be willing to watch a lot of bad PowerPoint presentations if the alternative was never to have sex again!

Regardless, the survey brings up an interesting finding. Many people find PowerPoint presentations so boring they would rather forgo sex, do their taxes, or even see the dentist rather than watch another bad PowerPoint (20% would prefer a dental appointment to watching PowerPoint).  I don’t think it has to be this way. PowerPoint is not a bad tool. In fact a PowerPoint presentation can be created and delivered very effectively. Most people simply don’t take the time to learn how to do it well.

According to the SlideRocket survey, the top frustration that people have with PowerPoint is “too much text.” It’s easy to see why. The average PowerPoint has 40 words on one slide. Yet the most memorable presentations have fewer than 40 words on ten slides. This observation led me to create The 10-40 Rule.

The 10-40 Rule. Simply put, the 10-40 rule states that the first ten slides of your presentation should contain no more than forty words. It’s easier said than done. But when it’s done well, it can be incredibly powerful. In order to follow the rule, you will have to learn to tell stories instead. And stories are best told with photographs and images. That means no slides with bullet points for the first few ten slides of your presentation.

Images and photographs work because of a concept psychologists call picture superiority. If I deliver information verbally, you’ll remember about 10% of what I tell you. If that same information is delivered with a picture, you’re likely to remember 65% of the information. That’s the power of picture superiority. PowerPoint can help your audience process information if you don’t overwhelm them with text, the “top frustration” according to the SlideRocket survey. By replacing text with images, your presentations will be much more engaging whether you’re using Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, or SlideRocket’s propriety online application tools.

There is one important caveat to remember—The 10-40 Rule works for presentations delivered in front of an audience. If you’re sending information to people in digital form for them to consume with the aid of a narrator—a speaker— photographs and images will not make a lot of sense. But then again, if you’re sending text to people, why use PowerPoint? Use word instead. PowerPoint works best not when it is the story, but when it complements the story.


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