The answer is yes. Yes it absolutely is.
Look, I get it. You can’t help but sigh every single time you hear the word “presentation”. You sit there pretending to be attentive as someone rambles on over a topic you have absolutely no interest in. Above all of that, there is a bland slide projected on a wall with a list of mundane bullet points, confusing graphics, Comic Sans fonts, water fall animations, or stupid 3D stickmen shaking hands. I mean it’s only inevitable that you find yourself pulling out your iPhone to scroll through the same Instagram feed you just saw five minutes ago, helplessly waiting for your misery to end.
The fact that you’re bored during these presentations is not your fault, but the presenters’, and that is exactly why PowerPoint is still relevant in the workplace.
We’ll get a little serious now.
Let me explain.
The most widely used presentation software on the market right now is Microsoft PowerPoint. In fact, a study conducted in 2012 reports that Microsoft PowerPoint has an estimated market share of 95%. This shouldn’t even come as a surprise. Everyone and their mother has some sort of access to PowerPoint. It’s flexible, accessible, easy to interpret and segmental.
Sure, there are other software alternatives like Key Note or Google Slides, but they aren’t as widely accessible to the majority of the players in the business realm. Key Note, for example, is only available for Mac Users. Google Slides, although a great tool, is not as robust as PowerPoint is (although, to be fair, the use of Google Slides is growing).
Many of you don’t even know this, but PowerPoint isn’t solely used for presentations either. Entrepreneurs make pitch decks and business proposals using PowerPoint. Various professional services firms formulate reports on PowerPoint. Heck, you can even download free CV templates specifically made for PowerPoint that look better than 90% of the CVs you have seen to date.
With Great Power(Point) Comes Great Responsibility
Why is it, then, that a widely used piece of software has the ability to be an absolute buzzkill?
The answer shouldn’t surprise you: people are using it incorrectly.
Here’s the thing, PowerPoint, no matter what you use it for, is a communication tool. This tool is to be used by anyone seeking to transform messages into valuable information that directly correlates to an audience’s interests. This is done in two ways: empathy and design.
Let me be clear. If someone that creates something on PowerPoint, like a presentation, does not practice the two principles mentioned above, he/she is sentencing the audience to the infamous Death by PowerPoint.
Be Empathetic and Walk a Mile or Two in Your Audience’s Shoes
Empathy, in this sense, is the ability to understand your audience. Everything about your audience must be taken into account when making anything on PowerPoint. So, when making PowerPoint presentations, these are just some of the questions you should ask yourself:
- What’s my audience’s technical skill level like? Would they understand words like ‘Hypercholesterolemia’ or would they prefer me to state ‘High Cholesterol’ instead?
- Would they prefer a list of all of the points, or should I go over the main ones?
- I want to respect my audience’s time. How many slides should I be putting into this presentation?
- How can I use color to create a contrast so that my audience can easily pinpoint out the important pieces of information on the slide?
And so on.
Be the Next Vera Wang of PowerPoint Design
Vera Wang is a great example in this context. She was a figure skater and fashion editor before taking the leap and opening her first bridal boutique at age 40. 40!
So whenever someone tells me they’re too old to design something aesthetic on PowerPoint, or they’re not that creative enough, or whatever, I always refer to Vera Wang. Wang persevered by learning and practicing, and age did not stop her. She wanted to perfect her craft because she knew design was everything to her business, and that is exactly why she went from one bridal boutique into a fashion and lifestyle empire.
You might be saying “now hold on, surely you’re exaggerating. Design isn’t that important… is it?”
I could link you studies like this one highlighting how design-driven companies have outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 219% over 10 years. Or I could just show you.
If you were a member of my audience, and I’m presenting a slide I made on PowerPoint to you. Would you prefer this?
Or would you prefer something like this?
PowerPoint skills are not only relevant, but in many cases, they are essential. It’s not about becoming the person who can make the awesome PowerPoint presentations (or decks, reports, or whatever). Rather, it’s about being the most effective communicator in the workplace. By becoming a PowerPoint genius, you will have the ability to make messages that appeal to various audiences, master the ability to practice empathy, and have a keen eye on design.
With enough practice, you’ll be the Vera Wang of PowerPoint in no time.