Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck: Conversation with Rick Altman

Created: Saturday, May 26, 2007, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 8:25 am

Updated: at



Rick Altman (pictured to the right) is a presentation consultant based out of Pleasanton, CA. Rick is well known as the host of the annual PowerPoint Live event and has a strong sense of the needs of the presentation community. In this conversation, Rick discusses his new book called Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck — and goes on to explain what goes wrong with many presentations.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your new book, and what prompted you to do such a book.

Rick: I have had the idea for this book in my head for over three years, and candidly, I could have authored it years ago, from a big publisher, with a lot of marketing muscle behind it. But each of the publishing houses that I spoke with wanted the book to contain introductory material, and I was unwilling to do that. There are plenty of books that cover PowerPoint basics and rudimentary presentation skills training. Too many, in fact! What is there for the more seasoned user? I wanted this book to pick up where the others left off, and I wanted it to be uneven, full of bias and commentary, and not be afraid to be inflammatory. As I say in the introduction, “you are invited to disagree — in fact, if you agree with everything I say in the book, its value is probably diminished.”

The best way to accomplish these objectives was to publish the book myself, and today there are plenty of resources to support that. I might not sell a half-million copies in the first year, but I’m confident that I’ll get it out there to the people who might be interested in the message and that the message will strike a respondent chord with them.

Geetesh: What are the most common mistakes that PowerPoint presenters and presentation designers do, and how can this book help them?

Rick: If I had to boil it all down to just one thing, I would cite the popular sentiment that the PowerPoint file is the presentation. I have colleagues who even refer to the resultant effort as “a PowerPoint.” This is way off. A collection of images projected behind you is not the presentation; you are the presenter and what you have to say is the presentation.

Once you approach from that point of view, then tactics around use of the software can begin to make some sense. If the PowerPoint file is not the presentation, then for heaven’s sake, don’t dump your entire speech there.

And if it is to remain subordinate to you, then don’t fill it with a bunch of attention-getting devices that undermine you.

Projected slides should not work so hard and they shouldn’t make the audience work so hard. If that dramatic photo takes too much attention away from you or the text on your slides, then it performs a disservice, no matter how beautiful it is.

My hope is that through all 278 pages, this book never loses sight of the primary role of presentation software – to support the presenter – and the most effective way for it to play that role.

Categories: books, interviews, powerpoint

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1 Comment

  • Gib

    Altman is dead on! It’s not about PowerPoint and graphics. It is about the message that one is conveying!

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