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Ellen Finkelstein’s Survey: “What is Death by PowerPoint?”

When I started Breaking Murphy’s Law, I decided to do everything possible to avoid focusing on presentation disasters involving bad PowerPoint. Although there are as many stories about bad PowerPoint as there are PowerPoint presentations, it seemed best to avoid territory that was already being so thoroughly explored by experts better versed in the relevant issues (Andrew Abela, Nancy Duarte, Edward Tufte and Cliff Atkinson for example).

Ellen Finkelstein is also a member of this group. Her website has been offering tips and techniques on PowerPoint and presenting for over 7 years. She has also written at least three books about PowerPoint. Most recently, she created a survey to measure the depth and breadth of the bad PowerPoint problem.  It’s called “What is Death by PowerPoint?” and it’s unique because respondents take one experience they’ve had of Death by PowerPoint and tell that story by answering some questions. She invites everyone to take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=8btaxwZWsjzcfZf2i5Qjog_3d_3d/.

A basic premise behind Breaking Murphy’s Law is that the sharing of stories is an integral part of our profession. Ellen tells me that she’s sure everyone has had a Death by PowerPoint experience that they would like to rant about. And in case having a chance to rant isn’t enough of an incentive, everyone who takes the survey gets a link to download her 22-page e-booklet, 7 Steps to Great Images.

She’s already received great answers, both sad and funny. For example,

What was wrong with the design? “There was nothing wrong with the design, THERE SIMPLY WASN’T ANY.” W.C., Seattle, WA, U.S.

“Presentation was 246 slides, all full page text. Text was 14 points. Text ran to both edges and to the bottom. Text boxes flew in on every slide. The attorney giving the presentation read every single word on the slide.” R.A., Columbus, OH, U.S.

What was wrong with the design? “Text was illegible so that the presenter sometimes went for rescue on his printed notes. There were all sorts of unnecessary transition effects with sounds like cat meows, car brakes and thunders. Seems that the presenter had done no homework on the content, had only pleased his own strange aesthetics.” Z.P., Pereira, Brasil

I think it safe to assume that Ellen’s survey is going to confirm that there are only a few ways to do thing right and there are many, many ways to do thing wrong.

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