Six deadly sins of PowerPoint presentations

Six deadly sins of PowerPoint presentations

25 August 2017

What do executives do all day?

According to researchers at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics, they spend upwards of 18 hours per week—a third of their working week—in meetings.

And one thing bosses loath more than root canal work is meetings filled with boring, long-winded, sloppy PowerPoint presentations.

That means presentations where information, ideas, vision and values are lost in badly designed slides, verbose jargon-filled language, and endless bullet points.

Enter Emma Bannister, CEO and founder of Presentation Studios, who is passionate about reforming wayward workers ensnared by the six deadly sins of business presentations.

She recently told the AFR how to avoid them, and we’ve added a few comments to help out.

1. Missing the point

Ask yourself: What is my point? Why are you presenting? Are you trying to educate your audience, sell them your big idea, or communicate your latest results?

Now summarise your point in one sentence. If you can’t do that, you’re not ready to present.

Pick one clear message, and repeat it throughout to make it stick.

2. Too many messages

An average audience will remember only 10 per cent of your presentation.

A presentation should not be a data dump. If your goal is just to provide data, cancel the presentation and just send out the data.

Aristotle invented the “Rule of Three”. Pick three ideas you want to present and present those. Each of those might be broken into three parts to explain, but don’t bother adding a fourth main point, because they won’t remember it.

The Apple presentations given by Steve Jobs were always structured around the “Rule of Three”.

3. Information overload

Sharing endless facts and stats will simply have everyone running for the door.

Everything on your slide should accomplish useful work. Unrelated details in templates, graphs, figures, and tables should be cut.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was one of the greatest speeches in history, yet it contained only 272 words and lasted less than three minutes.

When it comes to presentations, less is more.

4. Digging up the past

Reusing the same old slides will bore your audience to tears. PowerPoint clipart has become a “visual cliché.”

Try using using your own scanned photographs or better-quality graphics from companies such as PhotoDisc ( or Hemera’s Photo Objects (

Your visuals should augment, not repeat, your words. Slides should convey graphically what words cannot.

5. Boring and bland

Use stories and visuals that help your audience feel something, whether excited, inspired, or even angry. Use questions to get your audience involved.

If you’ve done PowerPoint to death, try using a Prezi presentation instead.

Don’t know about Prezi? Check it out here.

6. Wasting time

Sure, you’re in love with your amazing visuals and pithy insights.

But know that your audience will view them through this uncompromising lens: “So what! Who cares! What’s in it for me?”

Make it snappy and make it count.

Give your audience solid information, insight and understanding, and motivate them to a course of action.


No one enjoys a root canal or death by PowerPoint. So avoid these six deadly sins with your next presentation and you’ll have a presentation that is engaging and sets you up for success.