Sleep by PowerPoint?

Here is a different take on “Death by PowerPoint.” I’m not sure of the source of this cartoon as someone left it in my mailbox a few years ago, but it serves as a reminder that PowerPoint does not equal presentation.

Do you have tips for using PowerPoint as a tool in presentations? If so please leave a comment below. I’d love to include your thoughts and ideas in the preconference Paul Signorelli and I are doing at ALA on how to give good presentations.

Nap by PowerPoint

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. When I give a presentation I think of the slides as a take-away. They are like the notes I would take if I were attending the talk – something I can take home and learn from later. The talk itself – is just that – it’s a conversation between myself and the people attending the presentation. Granted sometimes I don’t have a very energetic group and I do most of the talking – but I still keep it conversational.

    Another tip if to include color and images on your slides to make them interesting to look at while you’re talking. And lastly, only read from the slide itself if you have a quote to share – or small print that someone can’t read (and they ask you to read it to them).

  2. Interesting that this topic comes up after the meeting I had yesterday. We want to do training in our library so our staff can do better presentations as well as better book promoting.

    One thing that drives me nuts is too many words on a slide. I am a visual person but if I’m listening to you as well I can’t read too much. Bullet points are fine but no more than 5 per slide and let it sum up your ideas (don’t read them verbatim).

    If you use images – make them connect to your point. Nice to have pretty images but if I’m staring at an image trying to figure out what it has to do with what you are speaking about I’m missing your points.

    Humor. I find it universal. It is one of those things that breaks the ice, gets people on your side even if the subject is serious there is always an opportunity to interject a bit of fun into it.

    Don’t just read from your notes. I like Nicole’s idea of a conversation but you can’t always do that. If you can’t then try to be engaging – storytelling from your point of view is a great way to keep people’s attention and get the point across.

    Loved to see your notes after this is all done, Lori!

  3. I use slides for some, though not all, presentations. I often have presentations that are just lots of screenshots as a backup in case my internet connection goes dead. Fortunately I don’t need to use those very often! I think those can be really deadly boring to sit through and to present.

    For other presentations, like you guys, I use the slides as a starting point for talking and discussing. Might have some bullet points or quotes on some slides, but I try to have good photos/images on the majority of the slides. It just gives another dimension to the presentation, something for people to look at and react to. And to reinforce ideas presented.

    The resources mentioned in the slides are usually posted to my wiki later. And if they slides really contain a lot of important content, I’ll post them to slideshare.

  4. Darcel Jones says:

    My thoughts on Powerpoint presentations from the view of someone who has to sleep… er… I mean sit…. yea sit through them…

    Less is more. Every slide does not need to have some fancy font, flashing letters, dancing clip art etc. My background may be children’s services but I am not in storytime. I am in a professional development training/ seminar/lecture. I appreciate the presenters who remember that.

  5. The last time I had to do a presentation, I reduced the slides to wordless images. I intended them to serve as mnenomic devices only. This was better, I thought, than overly dense text-only slides or too much animation and sound effects. Soon afterwards I read in another blog post that one doesn’t have to fly to one extreme to avoid the other. A few well chosen words and images together can accomplish quickly what it would take a lot of spoken words to get across. See full discussion below.

  6. Thank you all for the great comments! Tom like you I have reduced most of my slides to images only without words. I find the only time I use text or bullet points is slides for online training or webinars–because high quality images can take too long to load and people need the text too since you are not there to engage them in person.

  7. I rarely use powerpoint. I don’t teach vocabulary or facts to memorize. I like to interact with class members a lot. I like handouts where people can scribble, if they like, and share the information with their folks at home. Many topics need more than ten words on a slide or an image. When I see a powerpoint, I too often see and hear an instructor who does not know how to interact with their audience. If a client really wants one, I can do it pretty good. PPs can be good for creating working outlines for a class, but then, throw it away (grin).


  8. I suggest giving equal thought to how your ppt will be viewed/used *after* the presentation. I love the new “less is more” image-heavy, text-light style of design. But if you use it, and plan on posting your presentation for future reference, I think it’s important to include the text of your talk (or at least the main points for each slide) in the notes field. If you don’t include the actual content in the notes field all you’re doing is posting pretty pictures, and seriously limiting the effectiveness of the powerpoint for future generations.

    My 2 cents.

  9. Use slides as “anchors” for the flow of the content – a new slide says “OK we are moving on now” and keeps a sense of movement and progress (e.g. we are now at item 5 in a list of 6). But keep your focus on the audience and the audience’s focus on the speaker/messenger! Whatever you do, do NOT, NOT, NOT EVER turn your back to the audience to look at the screen behind you! If it’s not possible to arrange the gear so you can look at the computer on the table and see what is currently projected on the screen while facing the audience, then stand so as to follow the progression of slides “out the corner of an eye”. I repeat: Please do not turn your back … thank you!

  10. I’m with Pat and others – PowerPoint (and other slide-ish tools) all too often are used as a crutch for presenters for whom interacting with their audience is a challenge – and they in turn inhibit audience interaction. I often try to get the audience engaged from the beginning – before slideshowing them to sleep – by asking them to share their experiences on a particular topic, or,as mlibrarianus suggests, through humor. This loosens up both presenter and audience, making a much more energetic environment.

    I feel that slides that can stand up without you (like Peter suggests) are more harmful than good when it comes to delivering great presentations. Of course, we’ve all been conditioned to expect that we can learn from slideshows rather than from people, so a lot of audience folks still want those kinds of slideshows – largely, imho, so that they can ignore lackluster presenters and just learn the content on their own time later. As a professional trainer, I of course, prefer that my presence is required. 😉

    that said, i’ve become a huge fan lately of for delivering info. An example from a recent talk:

  11. Huh! I see the trackback from my blog beat my comment here 🙂 I started answering here, but it got long, so I took it over to my blog:

    I’m pretty idiosyncratic in the way I use PowerPoint – ymmv – but my main points of my post are:
    * use PowerPoint as just one complementary element with voice,content, body, interaction
    * be there for the audience, not the screen
    * hand out any handouts, don’t use the slidedeck that you show
    * use what is special about PowerPoint to create a great start
    * use screencast and video slides to tighten demos
    * use chapters and “today’s menu” slides to give structure
    * use PowerPoint to give your audience something interesting to look at if they don’t want to look at you
    * practise, practise, practise, practise the whole thing out loud with clickthroughs in real time
    * try recording your audio and play back to ensure the PowerPoint complements it.
    * have electronic and paper backups and know what you would do if you could not access your PowerPoint.

  12. Robert Vincent says:

    I made the decision recently to discontinue the use of presentation software in my seminars/lectures (I still use it for training, see below). I find that I am more effective when telling stories and engaging the attendees in a meaningful dialog rather than following a storyboard.

    Oh, btw,I am a certified Microsoft Office Master Specialist and I TEACH PowerPoint and Keynote techniques and usage. 😉

    I don’t suggest that everyone abandon the platform as I have, but for some it may be very liberating.


  1. […] goodness! I was replying to a request for comments about using PowerPoint on a post by Lori Reed, Sleep  by PowerPoint. As it got longer, I realised that I have a philosophy of using PowerPoint – how […]

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