Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck 3rd Edition: Conversation with Rick Altman

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:05 AM IST



Rick Altman is a presentation consultant based out of Pleasanton, CA. Rick has been hosting end-user conferences since 1989, and is well known as the host of the annual Presentation Summit conference. He has a strong sense of the needs of the presentation community. Rick has authored 15 books on presentations and graphics, including Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck.

In this conversation, Rick discusses the third edition of his Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck book.

Geetesh: Tell us about the 3rd edition of your PowerPoint book, and how the book’s changed to cope up with the changes in the presentation world.

Rick: It’s easy to get dizzy, our community is evolving so quickly. There were two very significant elements of evolution with my book — one based on content and one based on the nature of book publishing.

We published the second edition right when Facebook was beginning to take off and Twitter was but a fascination. Slide sharing was in its infancy, webinars were a new attraction, the iPad was brand new, and if you spoke about cloud computing, people would have thought you were talking about hallucinogenic substances. And this was just three years ago!

This edition covers all of that. We dedicate a chapter to slide sharing, discuss many ways to collaborate in the cloud, and offer advice on giving webinars. And we offer our thoughts on how (and how not) the iPad can contribute to the presentation experience. Also, we updated most of the examples, befores-and-afters, and makeovers.

Geetesh: What about how book publishing has evolved?

Rick: Yes, that’s the second big change. Today, you can marry the print and digital worlds like never before. So if you have your smartphones handy while you are reading, you will be able to access lots of online content through a few dozen QR codes. Also, the book is shipping in four distinct formats: print, PDF, ePub, and Kindle.

Did we write separate editions for each? No, I’m not that much of a glutton, but we made sure that each edition functions the way you would want it to in its native environment — we didn’t just clone the print version. The PDF version is full of bookmarks, the Kindle version has images that are tuned for those displays, and in all cases, cross-references and hyperlinks are live.

Geetesh: Do presentations still suck as they did when you wrote the first edition of Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck?

Rick: Let’s see, should I answer truthfully or should I answer in a way that would maximize sales?

No, it’s not as bad — that’s the simple answer. Organizations are finally starting to get it that they have to invest in presentation. A decade ago, they did practically nothing. But the reason that they get it is because this stuff is still really hard and the risk of Death by PowerPoint is still so high. Yes they get it now, but they’re still not sure what to do. Become better at PowerPoint? Learn about storytelling? Take a course in design? Go to Toastmasters? Practice in front of a mirror? Well, really, it’s all of these things and that can be very daunting. Speaking in public remains an angst-filled experience and that is not likely to change any time soon.

There are five parts to the book:

  1. We define the problems;
  2. Discuss software techniques;
  3. Presentation design;
  4. Delivery;
  5. A potpourri of advanced topics.

And the book isn’t 1,000 pages! I am reminded of one of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes:

I’d rather know nothing about everything than everything about nothing.

It would be an insult to imply that a book could make you an expert on any of those topics, but it is my hope to touch on all of them and bring some awareness of them and comfort to those who struggle with them.

All of the examples used in the book are available online at the book website. There are some sample excerpts, and of course, an online ordering page. And yes, your guess is right — the word suck is in the domain! Visit the site at www.whypptsucks.com.

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