You do what for a living? But Powerpoint is rubbish!

Imagine you are a graphic designer and you’ve been to university and studied design for 3 or 4 years. You have a degree, a portfolio of extremely creative work and are looking to start your career as a graphic designer.

In broad terms, you will probably go and work for a media agency, try your hand at various forms of media until you find one that you enjoy and are good at. As with most professions, you will probably specialize and that’s what will give you the ‘edge’ in terms of career progression – particularly now, where your skills as a designer are inextricably intertwined with your skills as an art-worker and software operator.

Somewhere along the way, you may have been asked to create a PPT template to match the other print and new media that was being created. From this introduction you’ll probably have found it infuriating to use but eventually struggled through and finished the template. Because of this experience, chances are you are now ‘a Powerpoint snob’; i.e. you look down on it as an unworthy tool for untrained business people to use for creating DIY presentations. You would never sully your professional reputation by using such a crude and amateur piece of software again.

What you are forgetting is that what makes PPT crude and amateur in your view is also what makes it so powerful. It’s the ability to change everything and anything within PPT very quickly and with minimum fuss by anybody with a modicum of computer experience that makes it an ideal tool for today’s fast moving business world.

Not so long ago in about 1993 when I was still a rostrum cameraman, we made some slides for a pharmaceutical company for their annual sales conference. We had a week’s lead in time to create the slides, get them proofed, shot, processed, mounted and programmed into the slide projectors. As ever, we finished the job on time and it went out to the show for rehearsals which happened to be in Brighton (about an hour and a half’s drive from London.) During the rehearsal (the day before the show) the Finance Director noticed a mistake on one of the financial slides that would have to be corrected. So off set process of re-artworking the slide, re-shooting it, processing, mounting and getting it to Brighton. For one small change on one slide, it took a team of 3 people working into the late hours of the night to produce it, then a taxi to Brighton (and back) to get it delivered to the producer ready for the morning. I have no idea what this would have cost them, but a small fortune would be a good guess!
Needless to say, presentations were planned in advance and thought about for weeks before the presentation because of this lengthy and expensive process.

If you wanted to do this change today in PPT, it would take you a few seconds.

So there’s the power of PPT – anyone can change anything in an instant. But it is also it’s Achilles heel, because it has now bred a generation of presenters who are used to doing changes at the last minute often at the expense of thought and due diligence.

So, everyone uses it, but no-one can really use it. Not many business people can really use PPT well, and not many designers can or want to use PPT. Probably one of the most used business applications on the planet and only a handful of professionals using it anywhere near to the extent of its capabilities. Why am I writing this? I believe that most people can improve their Powerpoint skills by following a few simple rules and by learning a few shortcuts that will save them hours of work. They might not make it to be the ‘World’s Greatest Powerpoint Designer’ but they will gain a huge amount from very little effort. As part of Present.me, and as ‘Powerpoint professionals’ we’re going to share our knowledge and expertise to help those that want to be helped. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this in the coming months….

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