Rick Altman has been hired by hundreds of companies, listened to by tens of thousands of professionals, and read by millions of people, all of whom seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. He covers the whole of the industry, from message crafting, through presentation design, slide creation, software technique, and delivery. He is the host of the Presentation Summit, now in its 17th season as the most prominent learning event for the presentation community.
In this conversation, Rick talks about his updated book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck (Fourth Edition).
Geetesh: Rick, can you tell us more about this new fourth edition of your book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck? Updating the book must be a journey through PowerPoint releases over the years. Please share some thoughts.
Rick: This is quite an extensive rewrite, as it had been well over five years and a lot has changed. Technically speaking, Morph and Zoom are legitimate game-changers within PowerPoint and each deserves and gets its own chapter. Otherwise, however, this book focuses more on design and messaging than on raw PowerPoint skills; in fact, to quote myself in the introduction, “Of the essential skills to the presentation experience—message crafting, presentation design, software proficiency, and delivery acumen—I would rank the software last.”
Geetesh: Who is your typical reader for this book—is it a beginner, an intermediate user, or an advanced user? And what according to you is the biggest takeaway they would find in your book?
Rick: It is not written for beginners. It assumes that you are vested in the presentation experience and that you want to better understand what it means to design and deliver an effective, audience-centric presentation. But perhaps the biggest takeaway might just be that you do not have to be an expert in either the design or delivery in order to become more effective.
Very few presentationists have backgrounds in the arts, most of us were not born with and did not develop storytelling instincts, most of us are undertrained in PowerPoint, and aren’t we all scared to death to speak in public? So it would seem as if the deck is stacked heavily against us. I attempt to dispel all of those myths; there are tangible skills you can learn, techniques to employ, and physical behaviors you can practice to become more effective as a designer and more comfortable before an audience.
Geetesh: If there’s one tip or suggestion that you could give to PowerPoint users so that they could create and deliver slides more effectively, what would that be?
Rick: I would say that the foundation of this book rests on the following premise: A good presentation is made up of what you say, what you show, and what you give. What you say to your audience when you are speaking before them, what you show them in terms of slides and visuals, and what you give to them in the form of a printed or electronic handout. Your objective is to make all three of these critical parts of the presentation experience as good as they can possibly be.
And I’ll give you this hint: that can’t happen with just good slides. The best slides in the history of PowerPoint cannot address all three of these core tenets. Sadly, Microsoft has not addressed this in the software, either, so we will have to perform a bit of off-roading to get there. I provide specific strategies in Part 2 to help you address all three pieces of the equation – the say, the show, and the give.