Here at the Tippie School of Management, we like our PowerPoint. Some of us like it more than others. (For the record – I am not one of those people.) Most of us can relate to a time where we sat through an absolutely horrendous presentation facilitated by an awful slide deck (never at Tippie, of course). I won’t directly address presentation skills here, but merely attempt to speak to that all-popular instrument, currently coming to consumers from the good folks at Microsoft.
Last semester I happened upon a TED Talk video online. While I wish I could remember the speaker and his message, sadly I cannot. However, what I do remember is the style this fellow employed with regard to his PowerPoint. His slides embodied simplicity. They were monochrome in nature, with either a solid red or blue background. The text was in a large, white and bold typeface. Typically there were no more than three words on any given slide. This deck left an impression.
The other day I took a page from this gentleman’s playbook and attempted to incorporate his simple yet memorable idea into the design of my PowerPoint for KRUI’s all-staff meetings. (KRUI 89.7 FM Iowa City is the college radio station here at the University of Iowa. I do my best to run it in the capacity of “general manager.”) Presenting in the beautiful Iowa Memorial Union (where we also broadcast from), I was thoroughly pleased with the outcome. The simple slides gave me plenty of room to speak to my points and main ideas without a deluge of bullet points. This was more of a question/answer/comment/suggestion meeting, and I found the back-and-forth to be quite easy and flowing. Afterwards I received many compliments on the presentation.
The big takeaway from this experience was a simple reminder of the power of design. A well-designed PowerPoint presentation can’t necessarily save a horrible presenter, but it can provide a great podium from which to deliver a message with impact. For more on the impact of design within the context of our everyday lives, I highly recommend Ralph Caplan’s By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons.