bad PowrPt

I’ve seen some pretty awful slide presentations over the years, but this one was an epic PowerPoint fail.

As “The Funniest Two-Time Cancer Survivor” in the U.S., I perform for lots of healthcare groups and at dozens of cancer survival celebrations. I love them because I get to make patients and caregivers and healthcare pros laugh their heads off—and if anybody needs it, they do.

I performed at one out west recently where the audience was made up almost exclusively of medical pros, i.e., doctors, nurses, radiologists, oncologists, etc. The speaker before me was a woman who had done groundbreaking research on how to treat certain tumors, and she had obviously been onstage a lot because her platform skills were better than the average civilian.

Her PowerPoint skills, on the other hand, were atrocious—almost felonious—and had people exchanging quizzical looks and rolling their eyes.

She had some pretty interesting images of brain tumors and the like, and then she’d put up a slide of an ENTIRE PAGE from a textbook! Not only was it illegible because the type was too small, nobody could read it anyway because she never stopped talking. Then she’d put up a slide purportedly illustrating the steps of some procedure or other, but it was so complex it could have been the blueprint for a submarine. After the third or fourth such slide appeared, people started glancing at each other and widening their eyes, clearly saying, “Doesn’t she know we can’t comprehend this crap?”

Whether the attendees would admit it or not, her credibility was damaged because people just naturally think, “If she’s this clueless about the idiocy of what she’s showing us, how much of what she’s saying can I really believe?”

I honestly think most people in the audience were glad when she finally finished, because they didn’t want to pretend to be interested in her slides anymore, and were probably embarrassed for her.

One of the hard and fast rules for slide presentations is that the average person in the audience should “get” the slide—that is, register a complete understanding of it—in about two seconds. That means that the number of words in this sentence is at the upper end of what should be on the screen. I try to keep it as short as this one. Most of my slides are intended to get a laugh, and consist of a photograph and an explanatory phrase of less than six words. If they don’t laugh within two seconds, I’m toast.

To see an entertaining demonstration of what I mean,



and Fast Forward to the two-minute point of the video.