5 Powerpoint worst practices

I attended a meeting with a potential new client the other week and they showed me a presentation detailing their social media plans and their thoughts around strategy.  It was awful.

I can honestly say that it was the worst presentation I have EVER seen. 

And that’s saying something.  I’ve sat through a heck of a lot of presentations in my time… I’ve delivered quite a few.  Some good, some bad, some compelling, some boring.  We all have.  I’m not special, nor am I a better presenter than everyone else.  But I’ve sat through enough presentations to know and understand that there are some things you just shouldn’t do with your presentation

So why was this particular presentation so bad?  I’ve spent a couple of days trying to make a list.  (The screenshots have been taken from a deck I’ve put together using one of my documents from Scribd for the content in the slides and hidden things to protect the innocent- and they guilty).

  • There were too many words on the slide.  The slides looked like they had been cut an pasted directly from a word document. I lost track of what the presenter was saying as i was trying to read the words on the slide


  • Image slides were irrelevant and made the presenter falter.  He didn’t know what the slide images were supposed to represent.  Obviously he was delivering someone else’s content and hadn’t asked the originator what the slide images were supposed to mean.image
  • The social outcome goals slide was in the form of a pipeline funnel.  Again, the presenter read all the words on the slide, whilst I struggled to understand what the slide actually meant..


  • Implementation tactics.  Scott nailed it with his version of his strategic implementation slide.  5 columns of meaningless process and terms… Aargh.  I have no idea what the presenter said.  I was busy trying to work out what the slide actually meant.image
  • There were 40 slides for a 30 minute presentation.  Unless you’re Dick Hardt and want to reprise the sort of thing you did at Oscon a few years back, then you don’t need all of these slides. 

I fully understand that we’re moving towards a paperless office, and giving out hand-outs are not considered green.  But I had a notebook, to write down key points, I have an internet connection and could have received the documents later.  I could have listened and learned from the presenter.  I could have imagined the story from the impact of the images.

So am I going to work with this client?  Probably not for their social media story just yet.  They’re probably going to take quite a while to run through their pre implementation story.  But I’m certainly going to go back in to help them create better, more impactful presenters and slide decks!

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


5 thoughts on “5 Powerpoint worst practices

  1. TechieBird

    I have actually seen worse than this.

    One woman I used to work with was told to present something “in no more than three slides”. So she took her 20-something slide deck, and copied images of multiple slides in a 3×3 grid into each slide. I wish I was joking. (And they were overcrowded, confusing, ugly slides to begin with.)

    I’ve had ‘discussions’ with senior managers when they’ve told me to get my point across in x slides – I ask them how much time I’ve got and whether I can be trusted to choose how to use my content appropriately in the time allowed. (What if they want 3 slides and I have 5 diagrams – if they’re good, simple diagrams they might only need 20 seconds each to make the point. Should I cram them onto fewer slides? How can that possibly help?) Usually the answer is along the lines of “no, because we send out the slides beforehand and if there are more than three people will switch off”. Aaargh! I’ve also asked if I can send out a more detailed document as the handout (e.g. for people who can’t attend or aren’t listening) and present my preferred deck in the room. Usually the answer is No, I should include most of my words on the slide deck for those people. It’s difficult to respond to that point, firstly because I can’t think of a polite answer and secondly because by that time I’ve buried my face in my keyboard.

    So there are managers out there who actively discourage people from presenting good, clear slides. And we wonder why people hate being presented at 😦

    1. eileenb Post author

      We have ‘lots’ of work to do eh? 🙂
      but at least my way of presenting slides with few words and compelling images will continue to get better feedback than these sorts of slides…
      I feel your pain!

  2. Maria Jose Serres

    It’s incredible with all the articles, videos, books and courses about how to make good presentations there are still making these basic mistakes.
    Are they so confident about their knowledge that they do not check all the information available to improve themselves and at the end their business?

  3. James

    I was once told “Don’t put more an a slide than you would on a T shirt … OK think of a XXXXL T-shirt”

    Putting every word on the slide and reading should be a considered a crime against the audience – they can read. Imagine if rolling news programs put what was on the anchor’s auto cue in the scrolling text on the bottom of the screen…. sigh.

    1. eileenb Post author

      Apparently these wordy slides save paper printouts at large companies. Honestly they were truly dreadful!
      I looked at my own decks and deleted 30% of the words from them – and they only have about 30 words on the slide in the first place!

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