Stop Death By PowerPoint With One Simple Technique

When was the last time you were in a meeting, and heard the presenter say:

I know this next slide is an eye chart, but…

And then you see something like this:Your eyes scan the page, but can’t stop moving.Your head starts to swim.You get nauseous.You want to run from the room screaming.Welcome to Death by Powerpoint.

That horrible place where you’re drowning in data, but thirsty for insight.

If it weren’t so common, it’d be funny.How did Death by PowerPoint become so normalized?It’s not as if anyone wakes up in the morning thinking “I want to make people’s eyeballs bleed and have them hate me forever!”

Yet in many organizations, Death by PowerPoint is business as usual.


Many organizations are led by what my colleague Lisa Bodell calls “professional skeptics”.

These skeptics may say they want new ideas and embrace change, but most are more invested in preserving the status quo. They resist change.They demonstrate this resistance by saying “show me the numbers.  Prove it to me.”

So what have their loyal followers done?

Show up to the meeting with all  the research.  Which makes complete sense.  It’s the ultimate CYA (Cover Your Ass) strategy.

The only problem is that showing up with the research quickly morphed into showing all the research at once:  Death by PowerPoint.

This creates a dilemma:

  • On the one hand, your audience may want to see (and ask for) your due diligence.

  • On the other, showing the whole backstory may overwhelm them.

So what to do?Consider this simple technique:  include an Appendix.

In your presentation proper, include your summarized (high-level) conclusion as a result of the work you’ve done.  Distill it down and present it in a simple, easy-to-follow way.As you present this info, you can say “If you’re interested in more detail, I’ve included an appendix that includes all the detail.”If your audience wants that data, you can skip to your appendices and walk them through it.

The appendix creates flexibility and an alternate route.  It’s a way to serve two constituencies and maintain your status as a consummate professional.In addition, many presentations also have an afterlife.  That is, the powerpoint decks may be emailed to other stakeholders who will read it in place of attending the live presentation. Consider creating a separate email version that works well as a stand alone document.

Some people think “appendix” and think of a meaningless appendage that could be live-threatening if inflamed. Use your business appendix properly, and you could end up being a life-saver.

What other techniques do you know to avoid “Death by PowerPoint”?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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