Even if you’re not experienced in the field of presentation design, chances are you have an opinion about PowerPoint. And, like most people, you probably either love it or hate it.
This contentious and oft maligned program has been a source of debate for many years. Some see it as clunky and difficult to use. Others even suggest that it is directly responsible for the decline in the quality of communications in our culture at large, and that it’s the source of endless time wasting and unproductive work environments.
But as a presentation design & storytelling agency, we beg to differ.
Unlocking the Power of Effective PowerPoint Presentations
PowerPoint is a tool that, when used effectively, can greatly improve comprehension and retention of information following a presentation. And achieving that isn’t some magical feat or complex task that’s beyond the grasp of the average user. It simply takes using good design principles, and understanding what goes into an effective presentation.
Common Misconceptions About PowerPoint
Our presentation designers note that one of the biggest misconceptions about PowerPoint is that creating a presentation is simply a matter of dropping information onto a slide. This stems from the fact that PowerPoint is actually very simple to use. This leads users to crowd single slides with as much information as they can, often leading to complex topics being made even more difficult to understand. The contradiction is clear: PowerPoint is both too simple and too complex.
But the value of PowerPoint shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. Like many other digital tools, it’s had a democratizing effect on the sharing of information. It’s given any user the ability to create and share information, without any design background or training, and brought a more accessible way to share to millions of businesses. And like any tool, with time and education it can be used to tell rich, complex stories in an easily understandable way.
One response to PowerPoint has been to abandon presentations altogether, in favor or long-from memos. When Amazon banned PowerPoint from being used in executive meetings, the result was that “instead of reading bullet points on a PowerPoint slide, everyone sits silently for about 30 minutes to read a "’six-page memo that's narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns.’”
But longer isn’t always better. And with a considered and well-crafted presentation, you may find that your employees will actually retain more information than they would scanning a large six-page memo.
Do we still even need PowerPoint?
Well, yes. While competitors like Google Slides offer great functionality and lots of simplicity, they can’t quite match the combination of deep flexibility and broad accessibility that PowerPoint offers.
But other presentation programs are just one challenger to PowerPoint’s place in the office. As generative AI goes from fun new tool to business essential, it is already stepping in to design slides and write content. That’s a good thing! AI can be a great tool to help people create richer presentations. But the unique nature of presentations as the medium between speaker and audience, and the nuance and specificity often required of presentation content, it might be a long time before AI can fully take over the task of creating your presentations.
PowerPoint is the most well-known presentation program for a reason. And while there are many new tools out there, it’s still the first choice of presenters.
Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new details on best practices for visuals in presentations
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About the author
Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.