Before the presenter had barely uttered a word, your mind had already checked out. You were no longer present in that meeting room – you were prancing playfully across a white sand beach, the fruity flavors of your boozy cocktail blending harmoniously with the wafting scent of coconut tanning oil and salty sea air. You felt fresh and at peace, a welcomed guest in a land where presenting oneself merely entailed a smile and a “cheers.”
Then, suddenly, you were startled by a loud bang. What you had hoped was the chef making preparations for the afternoon’s pig roast turned out to be the hapless presenter slapping the sputtering projector to refocus the manuscript being read verbatim from the screen. As you tried coming to terms with your aggressive jolt back to reality, a tear rolled slowly down your cheek and landed in the corner of your mouth, serving as a salty reminder of your attempted escape from presentation hell.
You were stuck. It was going to be a long hour.
Visual aid abuse is a serious offense. To make things a bit more palatable for your audiences, here are the five types of presentation slides to avoid.
Tequila Slides contain so much content that it looks like someone threw up on them after a night out at Señor Frog’s. It’s as if the presenter himself can’t quite boil his point down to a manageable sound bite, so instead he decides to throw everything on the slide and see what sticks. Colorful charts and pictures vie for the viewer’s attention amidst a sea of text that’s been reduced so much in size that, from a distance, it merely looks like a series of neatly-arranged lines. Eyeballs bounce around the slide like a game of pinball, resulting in Tylenol being sneakily passed around the room to alleviate the cranial pressure.
Just like the classic Superbowl party snack, Bean Dip Slides take the Tequila Slide to the next level by having overlapping layers of content, or content that falls off the edge of the slide entirely. Terrified of leaving too much calming white space on his slides, the presenter often decides to fill in all the gaps (and then some) with cartoon-like graphics from hell. I don’t know about you, but if I have to look at another clipart image of brightly-colored puzzle pieces being conveniently slotted together, I’m going to punch someone in the face.
Memoir Slides contain nothing but text, and a lot of it. Maybe it’s the screaming kids or puppy duties that keep him busy. Whatever it is, the presenter clearly has little time to read at home because he takes full advantage of every opportunity to do so during his presentations. Reading from the slide makes his presence utterly unnecessary, which means he’s just wasted everyone’s time. You’d think he’d get the hint when receiving nothing but 1,000+ page novels each year during the company’s Secret Santa gift exchange.
Kardashian Slides use so much animation for dramatic effect that they appear to be just begging for attention. In one of the more awkward moments in presentation history, the presenter and his audience wait in silence as the text on the slide appears letter by letter, as if to create suspense for each brilliant character stroke he made when creating his content. Alternatively, despite having filled the slide with animations, the presenter might rapidly click through all the animations before beginning to talk about the material on the slide, thus rendering the animations even more pointless than everyone in the room was already thinking. The swirling effect on his images does nothing but make the audience daydream about flushing the content down a toilet. And as you sit there staring at the screen in disbelief, you may even start to wonder if you yourself have been cast in a reality TV show without your knowledge.
These slides feature such a mish-mash of styles and shades that every color of the rainbow is represented. Charts and graphs contain so many brightly-colored data series that they appear to be mimicking a paint swatch picked up from The Home Depot. These elements then, of course, clash loudly with the large company logo pasted in the corner. And, to place a cherry on top of this vibrant PowerPoint sundae, the presence of the dreaded secondary y-axis does the situation no favors. Things can be so bad that audiences surprisingly find themselves begging for more text.
Avoiding these slides is a great start. But if you’re looking for more ways to fight back against bad presentations, check out my new book, The War on Boring: How to Kill Mind-Numbing Presentations Before They Kill Us First. It’s full of strategies that will help take your presentations from boring to brilliant.