Ubiquity of Presentations
We are living in world dominated by presentations. From class rooms to war rooms
to board rooms, presentations are everywhere. Emails and presentations are the
currency of business communication. A 2001 estimate suggested that 30 million
presentations are delivered everyday.
The number of computers globally has grown manifold ever since. A 2012 article in
the Bloomberg Businessweek estimated that the one billion copies of Microsoft’s
PowerPoint® are installed on computers across the world. The options for users are
only multiplying with Google Docs and many other apps for the iPad and Android
devices. And it went on to add that an average of 350 presentations are delivered
every second of every day1.
It would be entirely incorrect to claim that of these 350, only a minority are
delivered well, only a minority end up really moving the audience, and only a
minority achieve the objectives that were set forth at the beginning.
A vast majority of us have come to associate words like boring, painful,
monotonous and waste of time with presentations. This negativity has come to be
accepted as normal and we have started to blame the tool, and death by
PowerPoint is a widely accepted phrase today.
We must take collective responsibility of this failure because presentations are
about communication and not the tool. Done right, presentations can be and are an
instrument of change.
Effective presentations are not about the software at all, it is about the approach.
This training program will expose you to a new approach to create presentations
which do not rely on text and bullets. You will learn why is important to think
beyond text, to think visually and communicate through images, it will also tell
This training program distills from our experience of working with national and
An average of 350 presentations
are delivered every second of
international organizations and learning institutions to craft their presentations.
This programs also borrows from the best in the world to enable you deliver
presentations that create an impact.
When you show up to give a presentation, people want
to use both parts of their brain. They use the emotional
side to judge the way you talk, the way you dress and
your body language. Often, people come to a
conclusion about your presentation by the time
you’re on the second slide.
You can wreck a communication process with poor
logic or unsupported facts, but you can’t complete it
without emotion. Logic is not enough. If all it took was
logic, no one would smoke cigarettes. And every smart
proposal would be adopted. No, you don’t win with
logic. Logic is essential, but without emotion, you’re
not playing with a full deck.
PowerPoint presents an amazing opportunity. You
can use the screen to talk emotionally to the audience’s
emotional brain (through their eyes), and your words
can go through the audience’s ears to talk to their
Excerpt from Really Bad PowerPoint by Seth Godin
PowerPoint is Evil
by Edward Tufte*
Imagine a widely used and expensive prescription drug that
promised to make us beautiful but didn't. Instead the drug had
frequent, serious side effects: It induced stupidity, turned
everyone into bores, wasted time, and degraded the quality and
credibility of communication. These side effects would rightly
lead to a worldwide product recall.
Yet slideware -computer programs for presentations -is
everywhere: in corporate America, in government bureaucracies,
even in our schools. Several hundred million copies of Microsoft
PowerPoint are churning out trillions of slides each year.
Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience
for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience.
The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over
content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns
everything into a sales pitch.
Of course, data-driven meetings are nothing new. Years before
today's slideware, presentations at companies such as IBM and in
the military used bullet lists shown by overhead projectors. But
the format has become ubiquitous under PowerPoint, which was
created in 1984 and later acquired by Microsoft. PowerPoint's
pushy style seeks to set up a speaker's dominance over the
audience. The speaker, after all, is making power points with
bullets to followers. Could any metaphor be worse? Voicemail
menu systems? Billboards? Television? Stalin?
Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint
cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a
report using sentences, children are being taught how to
formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school
PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student
work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words
and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to
six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent
reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the
schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to
the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining
In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40
words, which is about eight seconds' worth of silent reading
material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides
are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless
sequentiality, one damn slide after another. When information is
stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate
relationships. Visual reasoning usually works more effectively
when relevant information is shown side by side. Often, the more
intense the detail, the greater the clarity and understanding. This
is especially so for statistical data, where the fundamental
analytical act is to make comparisons.
Consider an important and intriguing table of survival rates for
those with cancer relative to those without cancer for the same
time period. Some 196 numbers and 57 words describe survival
rates and their standard errors for 24 cancers.
Applying the PowerPoint templates to this nice, straightforward
table yields an analytical disaster. The data explodes into six
separate chaotic slides, consuming 2.9 times the area of the table.
*Reproduced from Wired, Issue 11.09 (Sep 2003)
Research points the ﬁnger at PowerPoint
by Anna Patty, Education Editor*
If you have ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as
you read those dot points on the screen, as the same words are
being spoken, take heart in knowing there is a scientific
It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in
the written and spoken form at the same time.
The Australian researchers who made the findings may have
pronounced the death of the PowerPoint presentation.
They have also challenged popular teaching methods, suggesting
that teachers should focus more on giving students the answers,
instead of asking them to solve problems on their own.
Pioneered at the University of NSW, the research shows the
human brain processes and retains more information if it is
digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the
It also questions the wisdom of centuries-old habits, such as
reading along with Bible passages, at the same time they are
being read aloud in church. More of the passages would be
understood and retained, the researchers suggest, if heard or read
The findings show there are limits on the brain's capacity to
process and retain information in short-term memory.
John Sweller, from the university's faculty of education,
developed the “cognitive load theory”.
“The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster,”
Professor Sweller said. “It should be ditched.”
“It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents
information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the
same words that are written, because it is putting too much load
on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is
The findings that challenge common teaching methods suggest
that instead of asking students to solve problems on their own,
teachers helped students more if they presented already solved
“Looking at an already solved problem reduces the working
memory load and allows you to learn. It means the next time you
come across a problem like that, you have a better chance at
solving it,” Professor Sweller said.
The working memory was only effective in juggling two or three
tasks at the same time, retaining them for a few seconds. When
too many mental tasks were taken on some things were
*Reproduced from the Sydney Morning Herald,April 04, 2007
Try and recall the best and the worst
presentations that you have ever attended (as
In the space provided, please write why you
feel they were the best and the worst.
You could include any reason!
Common and Annoying
Results from Dave Paradi’s Annual PowerPoint Survey
Presentations are becoming more common
The first key insight from the survey is that presentations are
becoming a more common form of communication. In the survey,
25.5% of respondents said that they see, on average, one or more
PowerPoint presentations each day. This number has steadily
increased from 13.4% in 2007 to 25.5%. This is an almost doubling
in the number of people seeing at least one presentation per day
in the last six years, an average growth rate of 15% per year over
Presenters are still annoying audiences by reading
In the survey respondents were given a choice of twelve things
that can annoy an audience member about a presentation and
asked them to select the top three. The number one annoyance,
and the top three annoyances have not changed since 2007. The
top three annoyances are
‣ The speaker read the slides to us
‣ Text so small I couldn’t read it
‣ Full sentences instead of bullet points
Reading the slides to the audience continues to be the most
annoying thing a presenter can do, yet it is being done
Presenters struggle in creating a clear message and
The next four responses in the list that annoys the members of
the audience most are
‣ Overly complex diagrams
‣ Poor color choice
‣ No clear purpose
‣ No flow of ideas
There are two key messages that presenters can draw from this
group of responses. First is that audiences really want you to
craft a clear message that has a flow and purpose. Too often
presenters skip the planning of their message and start by
creating or copying slides into a PowerPoint file. Step back and
take the time to consider the goal of the presentation, where the
audience is now, and what you need to communicate in order to
move them from their current knowledge to where you want
them to be. Only after you have a plan for your message should
you consider the role that slides may play in communicating that
message to the audience.
The second key message is that presenters need to learn how to
create clear visuals. The confusing graphics won’t help
communicate your message. This is where presenters need to get
some help in learning what visuals work and how to create them
so they are clear and not confusing.
Information overload is still a big problem with
Information overload has been emerging as the biggest issue in
presentations. This survey confirmed this. In the survey,
respondents were asked to write three words or phrases (positive
or negative) they commonly hear in their organization about
You can read the full results on www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com
A final annoyance cited a number of times in the comments was
errors on the slide, particularly spelling errors. When an
audience notices an error on the slide, it hurts the presenter’s
credibility and the audience starts to question the rest of the
Audiences expect better delivery skills
Too many presenters are reading the slides, as we saw in the list
of top annoyances, but many also face the screen while doing so,
disconnecting themselves from the audience. A number of
respondents said that if the presenter is just going to read the
slides, e-mail the file as a report and everyone can read it
When what the presenters says doesn’t match the content of the
slide, and presenters who skip through slides they don’t want to
discuss because the slides came from someone else. Presenters
need to edit their presentation and rehearse with their slides to
make sure the delivery will be smooth and consistent.
A number of comments were made about the speaking skills of
presenters. Filler words, not knowing where to stand,
inappropriate language, and other basic speaking skills
appeared as annoyances that bothered the audience.
Finally, audiences want presenters to know how to use
PowerPoint when presenting. Problems with setting up the
presentations, running embedded videos, using presentation
mode instead of edit mode to present, and other software skills
were included in the comments.
72.0 Percent of Respondents
Source: Dave Paradi, 2013 Annoying PowerPoint
Top PowerPoint Annoyances
Can We Deliver Interesting Presentations?
We’ve all hear our teachers shout a phrase almost every day
during our school and even college days - “Please pay attention.”
Thats because they have intuitively or otherwise known that
anything we attention to, we retain. Or the more attention we
pay, the more we remember.
However our attentions dips and wanes at the ten-minute mark.
What happens at this mark for the brain to take a mental jaywalk,
we don’t know yet1.
So are there ways to grab the attention of the audience? We know
one thing for sure that novel stimuli (the unusual, unpredictable
or distinctive) are fairly effective in catching people’s attention.
So you would have heard and read presentation advise that says
open your presentation with a strong start or open it with a story.
Thats a great way to start, but how does one hold the attention in
a session thats lasts about an hour.
As presenters, we just need to remember a few things.
1. Emotions can grab attention: Events and instances that are
emotionally arousing are better remembered than events that are
An emotionally charged event is usually called a emotionally
competent stimulus or ECS. An ECS stays in our memories
longer and are recalled better, that is with greater accuracy. Bill
Gates used this to his advantage in his presentation at TED 2009.
During his talk on the importance of malaria eradication, we let
loose a few mosquitoes into the hall and quipped, “I brought
some. Here I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only
Bill Gates releasing mosquitoes into the audience to emotionally emphasize his
point on the importance of eradicating malaria.
1 Medina,J. (2008). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle: Pear Press
poor people should have the experience.”
Not only was it effective in capturing the attention of the
audience, it grabbed headlines in newspapers across the world
the next day.
A brief, yet valuable exercise
Most presenters use the slide software or slideware (PowerPoint,
Keynote or Prezi or any such tool) to begin the development of
their presentations. This is WRONG! This is akin to starting the
construction of a building without any architectural drawing.
Starting with the software ignores some very important
considerations, like who is the audience; why are they coming;
what do they want to know or how do they learn, and so on.
The reason most presentations are boring is because presenters
end up saying, “what can be said,” rather than “what must be
As presenters, we can easily move from the former to the latter if
we just spend a little time in understand who the audience is.
The foremost aspect to remember is that different people have
different learning styles. Some learn best by observing, others by
writing and some by doing. For more information on learning
styles, see Learning Styles.
Very often presenters abstain from this exercise because it is
virtually impossible to paint a perfect picture of your audience.
So it is not incorrect to base your assessment of your audience on
a few assumptions.
There is, however, one situation where very accurate information
about the audience is available. That is the audience of one or
two, i.e, when you are presenting to just one or two persons. (We
will address this too, in detail, later.)
Coming back to the assessment of a bigger audience, a good
starting point is the demographics.
Your assessment starts with getting answers to questions like
‣ What is the (dominant) age group?
‣ How much work experience do they have?
‣ What functions do they perform in their companies?
‣ What industry verticals do they come from?
The answers to the questions above are like the first few strokes
of paint brush on a canvas. The final picture is far, but its a start.
The most important question to address is why are they coming.
What do they want to get out of the presentation? What do they
want to hear? Most authors call it the Whats In It For Me or
WIIFM expectation. This expectation can easily be met by
addressing their biggest problem or challenge.
The three more pieces of information you need to get a clearer
understanding of your audience and their needs will come from
answering the questions
‣ How can you help to address their biggest challenge?
‣ What do you want them to do to enable you to address this
‣ How are they likely to resist the challenge?
As assessment of the audience and their needs provides a nudge
to presenters to take their content from “what can be said,” to
“what must be said”.
The importance of this was eloquently threaded in words by the
28th President of USA, Woodrow Wilson.
If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation;
if fifteen minutes, three days;
if half an hour, two days;
if an hour, I am ready now.
28th President of USA
The Mood of the Audience
It takes an answer to just one simple question to get a rather clear assessment of the mood of your audience. Does your audience
have to be there or do they want to be there? In essence is their presence mandatory or is it a matter of choice.
If your audience wants to be there, their resistance to learning and their receptiveness to the message will be high. Expect the exact
opposites in the other case.
Decoding The Broad Spectrum Audience
Think of the broad spectrum
audience as a collection of
different shades of
different colors. They
are all different, and
their interests may
not be necessarily
Audiences of business presentations are usually very diverse, yet
they can be broadly categorized into two types - the narrow
distinct and the broad spectrum.
The narrow distinct audience is usually encountered at
specialist conferences and seminars, and internally at
department meetings. At a marketing conference, for instance,
the audience will comprise of people with varied experience
coming from a variety of industry verticals but their interests
will be aligned.
The broad spectrum audience on the other hand comprise of
people with varied backgrounds and varied interests. The
members of such an audience have different objectives. The TED
conference, for instance, is a perfect example of a broad spectrum
audience. They come with varied experiences with equally
varied backgrounds and seek to engage at different levels. Closer
to us, the annual review meeting is actually no different.
The members of the audience comprise of people
from different departments or functions,
across different experience bands
representing different geographies.
Thus the needs of the
representatives for the finance
department will be strikingly
different from those of the
representatives of the sales
Think of the narrow
distinct audience as different
shades of blue. They are all
different, yet they are similar -
their interests are aligned.
“Good design is good business,” said Thomas Watson Jr to the
students of University of Pennsylvania in 1973. And today this
could not be more true.
In 2005, the UK’s Design Council discovered that every £1 spent
on design led to more than £20 in increased revenue, £4 in
increased profit and £5 in increased exports.1 The Design Council
study, however, did not throw light on why good design leads to
Motiv Strategies’ explains that great design leads to the creation
of a wow factor, which essentially makes products and services
more compelling to own and use. Great design, through the
design thinking approach, vastly contributes to meeting the
unmet needs of the consumer.
The average businessman still does not place enough value on
good design. “The public is more familiar with bad design than
good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design,
because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening,
the old reassuring,” says Paul Rand in his book Design, Form and
The situation for presentation design is actually worse. Busy
slides with lines and lines of ill-formatted text and cheesy images
and clipart are more the norm than exception. Tragically the
ability to deal with bad visual design has become a valuable
coping skill in businesses and offices of our era.
Good design however can go a long way. Just a change in the use
of a particular typeface can lead to an impact in the way
1 Motiv Strategies, What is the Real Value of Design?
2 You can access the full article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/hear-all-ye-
information is perceived and retained.
In a experiment conducted by the New York Times in August 2012,
it presented an article in two parts to its online readers2. The first
part was about a scientific study comparing optimism to
pessimism. For the second part, the publication collaborated with
Cornell psychologist David Dunning to design a quiz that
examined whether the online readers believed the conclusions of
As part of the experiment the article was presented in different
typefaces like Baskerville, Georgia, Helvetica, Computer Modern,
Trebuchet, and Comic Sans. The experiment was designed to
assed the impact of the choice of a typeface on how the results of
the research were perceived by the readers.
About 40,000 readers took the quiz. And Baskerville generated
the greatest amount of trust. Surprisingly the strikingly similar
Georgia didn’t spark an as much positive a reaction. Comic Sans
caused many to disregard the results and even sparked a sense of
contempt in some readers.
Type design is something we tend not to think about when we're
reading. But font can have real-world implications that affect our
lives in tangible ways.The choice of a typeface ideal for a book
may not be suitable for a presentation. And there isn’t one
typeface that fits all needs, but their choice can make or break the
credibility of a message.
Watson was really right, good design is not only business it is
also credible and effective communication.
Does Design Matter?
Deciphering the real value of good design
Electricity bills in the United States have not been significantly
redesigned in more than 20 years. Which would be fine if the
thing were easy to read in the first place.
This is an abridged (and adapted) form of the article, How A Redesigned Electricity Bill Could Make You Smarter And Save
Cash.The full article is available on www.fastcodesign.com/1669931/how-a-redesigned-electricity-bill-could-make-you-
Saving Money Through Good Information Design
A sample of a Chicago ComEd bill from 1988.
A Chicago-based startup Power2Switch runs a a free service that
helps consumers comparison-shop for electricity suppliers.
They used a freelance designer to slickly package the bill using
color, charts, and typographic variation to emphasize the bill’s
most important information and de-emphasize the information
that has to be there.
Using good information design, Power2Switch wants customers to understand
their energy usage, and its impact on their pockets and the environment.
Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?
Can one really explain this?
1881 - 1973
From the walls of our rooms to the exterior of our cars, color is
everywhere and plays a critical role is every aspect of our lives.
According to an American Psychological Association study, The
Contributions of Color to Recognition Memory for Natural Scenes,
color helps us to process and store images more efficiently than
monochrome (black and white) images, and as a result, to
remember them better. A similar study conducted by the Pantone
Color Institute indicates that consumers are up to 78 percent
more likely to remember a word or phrase printed in color than
in black and white.
While everyone of us has a favorite color, our color preferences
change with age. In his book, Color Psychology and Color Therapy
Faber Birren says that yellow is popular with children but as
become move into adulthood it shows less popularity. However
both boys and girls continue to have a high degree of liking for
blue and red throughout life. He also found that with maturity
comes a greater liking for colors like blue, green, purple than for
those like red, orange, and yellow. He also added that color
preference is driven by cultural context. For instance, black is a
color of mourning in Western cultures and even though, white is
associated with purity, it is also used in mourning.
Color is a complex, rather, is a colorful subject with various tints
lending different shades to our comprehension and retention.
Since information, today, is being projected in classrooms and
boardrooms, color is playing an even more important role in
getting key messages across. It will help to understand the
fundamentals of color and how it can impact our presentations.
Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in
1666. Since then, scientists, artists and designers have built on
and developed other versions of the original concept.
In traditional color theory,
primary colors are those colors
that cannot formed by mixing
or combining any other colors.
All other colors can derived
from mixing these three colors
in different proportions, thus
they are also called additive
The three Primary Colors of the
traditional color theory
The three Secondary Colors formed by
the combination of the three primaries
Secondary colors are formed
by mixing the primary colors.
So when you mix yellow and
red in equal proportions, you
get orange. Similarly purple is
derived from red and blue, and
green from blue and yellow.
Tertiary colors can be derived
from mixing one primary with
one secondary color.
The Macintosh was the first computer
with beautiful typography.
At the Stanford Commencement in 2005
Times New Roman (50 pt)
Sans Serif font
Helvetica (50 pt)
Snell Roundhand (50 pt)
Anatomy of a Typeface
A serif is a slight projection that finishes off a stroke in certain
typefaces and such typefaces are called serif typefaces.
Book Antiqua Georgia
All the above serif typefaces may look similar to you. There are
subtle difference that many times don’t seem apparent to the
untrained eye. Serifs are the best typeface groups to use when we
are using a lot of text. They are thus not recommended for use
Sans Serif Typefaces
Sans, in French, means without. So sans-serif typefaces do not
have serifs at the end of their strokes. Unlike serif fonts, the
strokes in serif typefaces is of uniform width and shows no
variation around curves and curls, as you would notice in a serif
Franklin Gothic Gill Sans
A good san serif type family will have many weights ranging
from thin to extra bold, giving you the ability to introduce
character in your presentations.
Like colors, typefaces have personality and we tend to perceive
certain type families in certain ways. For instance, sans serif are
perceived to represent a modern look while serif typefaces
deliver a more classical feel.
So mixing of typefaces in a presentation can deliver an impact in
a way that is otherwise not possible. Its best to mix a sans serif
typeface with a serif typeface.
The key aspect to remember is that serif typefaces are best used
for long bodies of text and are thus not good for use in slides.
Sans serif fonts are best used in slides because they are easily
readable from a distance too.
An effective way of using typefaces is by introducing variation in
size. A larger word not only catches the attention of the audience,
size also implies importance.
Notice how a different font is used in combination with this
picture within this book, as opposed to on a slide. Notice
aspects of both the volume of text and the typeface used.
The eye is automatically drawn to 5 sec, which happens to
be the most important idea being communicated through
The variation in size should be so much that the difference is
immediately visible. By increasing the font size by a few point
does not help. Make the difference large because the audience
are spread throughout the room and difference should be
Also avoid the use of text in all caps because it is akin to
shouting. And more importantly all capital text is difficult to
read from a distance. Use size or even color to make the words
Visiontrumps all other senses.
Dr John Medina
Author, Brain Rules
The various elements that make up a slide must be aligned with
the other elements on the slide. This creates a sense of unity,
thus contributing to the overall balance and appeal of the slide.
In aligning text, you can either align them to the left or the right.
These two are far more powerful than center align, which is
not generally used when the volume of text to be displayed is
One way to build alignment in your slides is to apply the rule of
thirds. The rule of thirds can be applied by dividing the slide into
three equals parts both vertically and horizontally. This creates a
three by three grid, with four points of intersections, which are
interestingly called power points.
To create visual interest the most important element on the slide
must be then positioned on an intersection of the grid, or along
the vertical or horizontal lines. The asymmetry of the resulting
composition is interesting to look at, and generally agreed to be
aesthetic. The rule of thirds generally works well, is easy to apply,
and should be considered when composing elements on a slide.
Rule of Thirds
Creating a visually appealing slide
Using the rule of thirds to layout elements on a slide pushes the attention of the
audience directly to the most important element on the slide.
Principle of Continuity
The principle of continuity states that the objects that are
arranged on a line (or a curve) are perceived to be related than
those not on the line (or curve.)
Principle of Connection
The principle of connection states that the objects that are
visually connected to one another are perceived to be related to
one another and not to the unconnected ones.
Principle of Enclosure
The principle of enclosure states that the objects that are enclosed
by a shape are seen as related to one another versus those outside
Principle of Closure
The principle of closure states we strive to perceive shapes as
complete even though they may not be.
TED has done more to advance the art of lecturing in a decade than Oxford University has
done in a thousand years.
Mar 15, 2014
From the article “TED has revolutionised the ideas industry, in part by putting old wine in new bottles”
Some people love speaking in jargon, using fancy words and
turning everything into acronyms. Personally, I find this
simply slows things down, confuses people and causes
them to lose interest. It’s far better to use a simple term and
commonplace words that everyone will understand, rather
than showing off and annoying your audience.
Sir Richard Branson