The “Death by PowerPoint” Phenomenon Explained

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At some point in your life, you have probably sat through a presentation that you never thought was going to end. It probably felt as though the presenter was droning on and on, and you had no idea what they were talking about because you had stopped listening early on. At some point, you probably started paying more attention to the clock ticking, just waiting for the presentation to end. As you looked around the room, many of your fellow audience members felt the same way.

If this has ever been your experience, you have experienced the phenomenon known as “death by PowerPoint.” Most people have endured at least one terrible presentation and have experienced this complete disconnection from the presenter. Some presentations might bore you to death because they are too text-heavy, overly rely on graphics and charts, or contain 50 slides that the presenter reads. While these things are reason enough why you would be bored, these are just a few of the causes of a bad presentation. Everything from the presenter to the presentation is essential for capturing and maintaining audience attention.

According to some estimates, there are over 300 million PowerPoint users with over 30 million presentations created each day. PowerPoint has become such an essential aspect of our presentations that it is hard to imagine presenting without one. As a result, you would think that most people would have mastered the art of presentation by now. Unfortunately, many people use PowerPoint for support rather than illumination. However, PowerPoints can be engaging and effective if used correctly. Let’s take a closer look at death by bad presentations.

Stop using your PowerPoint as a security blanket.


Perhaps one of the biggest reasons audiences get lost in a presentation is because the presenter is leaning heavily on their PowerPoint. When presenters put too much information on each slide and then read their entire slide deck to the audience, there is no chance of anyone paying attention. This is when it appears that many people have “died” of boredom of a dull PowerPoint presentation. Aside from your main point, your audience’s attention is the most critical aspect of a successful presentation. To avoid a glossed-over audience, you have to stand beside your PowerPoint and not hide behind it. When PowerPoints become security blankets for the presenter, it is virtually impossible to maintain audience attention.

Tell a more interesting story with visuals.


The easiest and most effective way to avoid killing your audience’s attention is to tell a visual story. Everyone loves a good story, so let your presentation tell a visually compelling story. The human brain processes images significantly faster than text. This means you’ll want to fill your presentations with visual data to achieve maximum effect and engage your audience. Visual aids are always preferred over large blocks of text. If you need to review quarterly profits, it might be more effective to do that with an infographic rather than a list of facts and figures.

Keep it simple.


The KISS rule, or “keep it simple, stupid” rule, implies that something will work better if it is as simple as possible. This rule aptly applies to PowerPoint presentations as well. Ensure that each slide is simple and avoid stuffing the presentation with ancillary information and unnecessary content. If you want your audience to engage with your PowerPoint, don’t complicate your slides. Presentations that are simple and easy to read are easy to understand and follow. You’ll also want to simplify your content as much as possible to get your main point across without overburdening the audience.

Various things can lead to lackluster PowerPoint presentations. From poor presentation designs to too much text, it is very easy to kill your audience with a PowerPoint. However, by keeping your slides simple and visually appealing, you can avoid the dreaded PowerPoint death.