The Single Reason Why Technical People Suck at PowerPoint

The Single Reason Why Technical People Suck at PowerPoint

By Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah | Blog Post

Aug 07
Technical people suck at powerpoint
Technical people suck at powerpoint
We all know that one technical guy…

You’ve probably been in a situation where someone was giving a presentation about something technical. I’m willing to bet money that the presenter was either a scientist, engineer, or holds some other technical profession. I’m also willing to bet money that this same presenter we are talking about presented something like this:

overly complicated technical PowerPoint slide

Source: Paul Bennett: The Curiosity Chronicles

And you, of course, had a face similar to this:

wtf gif

It’s not like these technical people are stupid – on the contrary, in most cases these guys are extremely smart people.

So what the hell is going on?

The problem

Put simply, technical people love data. And I don’t mean love in an “aww” kind of way. I mean love in an obsessive “I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU” kind of way.

The issue stems from technical people wanting to be as thorough as humanly possible. This is to ensure, with absolute certainty, that they can prove that the message they are trying to communicate to the audience is correct. Technical people want to prove a hypothesis and figure the best way to do that is to include as much data as possible into their PowerPoint presentations.

Digging Deeper

So, you have a technical person, lots of data, and limited resources (i.e. time, space on a slide, etc.) to communicate a message.

What are you left with?

Complicated slides that nobody understands or even wants to understand.

Why?

Because the technical presenter is making the audience do extra work.

The truth is a presenter is in no position to force the audience to do extra work. Instead, the presenter is supposed to do the hard work on behalf of the audience by making the message simple enough to understand.

I’ve already discussed why simplicity is key when it comes to making your own PowerPoint slides, and you can read it over here. This is a principle that every presenter or presentation designer should follow without question.

Are you saying to leave out the data completely?

No.

What I am saying is to find ways to simplify a complex message. For me, this usually means to stick to the big ideas only and to focus on the data that matters rather than the data that might matter.

What are technical presenters supposed to do with the rest of the data?

Some presenters like to use handouts with the extra data so that the audience can refer to them when needed.

Personally, I find handouts a bit distracting and a waste of paper. So I tend to go with an appendix instead.

What I do is usually make a section titled “appendix” and stick all of the data I might need in there. This way, if an audience member asks for something in specific in relation to the data, I can go to the slides in the appendix section and discuss them in detail.

Just keep in mind the appendix is something you refer to, not actually present.

Conclusion

Technical people need to stop packing data into their slides. The more data a technical person adds, the more complex the technical person’s message will be. Technical people should think of ways to educate and inspire their audience through simplification.

Simplifying complex information is not easy. However, it is required to ensure the audience is understanding your message. 

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About the Author

Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah is a PowerPoint ninja that founded Slide Cow, a learning platform for all things PowerPoint, presentations and public speaking. When he's not designing slides or giving presentations, he's on another coffee run.

  • Ursula says:

    Great article, Yoyo! And so relateable. I’m actually going through something like this right now with a client. Is there maybe an example of a presentation you have like this? Or do you know of any out there that could be looked at as inspiration.
    Thanks again!

  • Yoyo says:

    Hi Ursula!

    I do plan on making a guide about this very soon, don’t you worry!

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