If you had to run an elementary school, what would you teach the children? Math? Literacy? How about PowerPoint design?
It sounds like an odd idea, but think about it. Those children will spend a large chunk of their lives presenting their ideas through PowerPoint. They could be trying to ace a college course or impress investors. Whatever they do, they will need to present.
Of course, these are only areas where PowerPoint presentations are already expected. Imagine what other communication problems they could solve with skills in PowerPoint. With advanced presentation skills, they could confidently navigate job interviews or salary negotiations.
Sadly, most students are only ever taught the basics of PowerPoint. Few, if any, will ever unlock the potential of the program. Even so, they’ll still be made to make PowerPoints with their limited skills. Skills that ensure we’ll keep seeing the same boring, bloated slides we all suffer through.
The impact of these awful presentations is almost unimaginable. According to research from Microsoft, poor PowerPoints cost the global economy $250 million every year. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted man-hours and misunderstandings.
On top of that, poor PowerPoints ground incredible ideas before they can take off. Imagine all the startups who might have changed the world if they hadn’t tripped at the presentation hurdle.
The only way we can stop such loss is to teach advanced presentation design from an early age. It would be an investment in empowering the next generation to present their ideas with clarity and confidence.
As with any good investment, this would have incredible ROI. Primarily, it would prevent the plague of PowerPoints that put us to sleep. Beyond that, we’ve identified the following areas advanced PowerPoint skills would improve:
- Large organisations
And these areas are only the start! As we inject presentation design skills into our workforce, we could create benefits in all kinds of other sectors.
Some educators say PowerPoint should be banned from lectures, claiming that slideshows are making students more stupid. As well as this, The New York Times has asked if presentation design should even be taught to students. Worst of all, the Harvard Business Review has made the bold claim that PowerPoint is evil.
Now obviously we have a bias, but we believe that PowerPoint is only a communication tool. With that in mind, we must remember that a tool is only as ‘evil’ as its user. For a good example, think of microphones. Would anyone say they are evil? Certainly not. Still, countless dictators have used microphones to push messages of hate. As with PowerPoint, they are only a tool.
With this in mind, we must eliminate ‘evil’ PowerPoints through education in presentation design. To illustrate this, we ask you to imagine a young girl who’s obsessed with space. Now imagine her science teacher gives a clear, concise presentation on rocket design. It’s a PowerPoint, but it goes above and beyond what she’s learned about rockets up until now. It animates the ideas she’s had trouble understanding, and allows ample time for questioning.
The girl fires endless questions at her teacher, who encourages her to enrol in a local science fair. She takes the knowledge from the teacher’s presentation and builds a model rocket. As she tests her design, she takes notes to present as part of her research.
When she’s deciding how to present her research, she remembers the lessons she learned from her PowerPoint design class. Using advanced presentation design skills, she demonstrates her research at the science fair with a superb presentation. She takes out the top prize, putting her on a path to serious rocket science.
Every day, hundreds of incredible startups are shot down simply because they pitch poorly. This problem is so pervasive that the famous 10/20/30 rule was only pioneered to prevent poor startup pitches.
A failed startup pitch isn’t just a loss to the presenter, it’s a loss to the world. We’d ask you to think of all the innovation we’ve lost thanks to mediocre PowerPoints, but we’ll never know for certain.
On a more positive note, think of the girl from before. She’s all grown up and graduated from college. She majored in aerospace engineering and minored in presentation design. Now she’s collecting investors in her space-travel startup. By following those presentation design principles, she’s able to impress all sorts of investors. Her startup starts to take flight.
As any presentation designer will admit, the best presentations build two-way conversations. As anyone who’s suffered through an awful presentation will say, most don’t. By enforcing this idea through education, we can start more conversations.
Consider the impact of that. More conversations creating stronger collaborations, culminating in incredible new ideas.
Think back to our rocket builder from before. She’s grown her little startup into an impressive organisation. She encourages her researchers to take courses in presentation design, so they can explain their findings and begin conversations with others. By boosting communication, her company quickly creates a rocket that can race to the edge of the solar system. In an interview with Forbes, she remarks that PowerPoint took her company to Pluto.
We understand that this all sounds a little idealistic, but with the right education this could easily be our reality. No more awful PowerPoints. An economy improved by clear communication. An end to articles about the ‘evils’ of this effective presentation tool.
Just look at the trajectory of our rocket scientist. Her education in PowerPoint started early, instilling her with the confidence to present her ideas at an early age. It enabled her to attract investors to her innovative startup. Then, when she had an organisation of her own, excellence in PowerPoint accelerated her company’s internal communication.
It’s time for educators to accept that PowerPoint design is a necessary life-skill