Think again before opening that PPT file, reason #37
Presentation software works best when combining visuals with text.
If you’re only using text, reconsider whether a PPT is the best medium for your message. We’ve been programmed to turn to presentation software whenever we’re asked to share information. The result is often a set of slides with bullet points and sub-bullets to provide more detail. These slides often turn into lengthy decks. (One -perhaps extreme- example comes from Anne-Marie Slaughter in The New York Times who describes “making hundred-slide PowerPoint presentations” as evidence of a toxic work world.
If you’re not using diagrams or annotating charts or other visuals, use Word. Your writing will be clearer and more cohesive without the PPT constraints of size, space and bullets. Using Word will take you less time to create and it will take your audience less time to read. Economic and ecological considerations also favor this approach.
For those who print their materials, Word documents are more efficient, requiring less ink, toner and paper. If you add a color background the difference is even more pronounced. From Virginia Business Systems, we learned that page for page, printing a slide with even 5% costs .10 on a laser printer, a print with over 100% yield would cost $2.00 a page. For inkjets the costs are even greater. (Paper is not part of this calculation since it is a constant in both examples.)
However, if you’d like to transition from text to a more visual representation, start by drawing or sketching (this requires pen and paper) the relationship among concepts. Are you showing a continuum or timeline progression, are they parts of a whole or is one more important than the other? Once you have this framework sketched out, try SmartArt or another group formatting tool to show these connections in your presentation software. A well-designed, simple diagram makes it easier for your audience to grasp the bigger picture.Taking time to frame how the information flows provides valuable context for details and proof points.
Do you find yourself using PPT as a your default word processor?
Send me your questions on presenting better; we’ll update the blog to answer them.