Instead of PowerPoint… dance?

If you’ve read my blog posts for a while, you know I have some strong opinions about PowerPoint. In short, I think it’s a powerful tool that is all too often poorly used in presentations, wasting people’s time and turning them more cynical to training and presentations in general.

A while back, I proposed 10 alternatives to PowerPoint. But I never thought of dance as an alternative to PowerPoint until this past weekend when I watched this TED Talk.

If you have 11 minutes, I encourage you to give it a view. If you only have 5 minutes, then fast forward to the 6:00 mark, where he offers his proposal on an alternative to PowerPoint.


I’m not sure I’m sold on dance as a visual alternative to PowerPoint. Honestly, I felt the dancers were more distracting to me than anything during his first five minutes. But I like his thinking in terms of the need for more effective ways to visually represent information.

What do you think? Is dance something you’d ever consider as an alternative to PowerPoint? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Will PowerPoint Replace You?

The other day, as I cleaned up a colleague’s slides, he said: “Wow Brian, you’re a PowerPoint ninja!” It was a nice compliment. While I’m still nowhere near the ability of a Garr Reynolds or a Nancy Duarte, I’d like to think I’m getting better with every slide deck.

When I need some inspiration on ways to create more visually appealing sets of slides, I often turn to Slideshare and their front page which always features amazing slide decks.

Over the weekend, this slide deck caught my eye. Who in the presentation field doesn’t want to learn more about being a better storyteller? And, eureka, is storytelling really dying?

The creator of this deck strung together a fun, entertaining narrative while adding a set of images that help add to his story. And I didn’t even need to attend his presentation in order to grasp the point he was making.

To be fair, my guess is that he modified this deck in order to upload it to Slideshare so that everyone who viewed it would understand what this deck was about. But what if he didn’t? What if the slides he presented were these exact slides? He’d be talking. The audience might be listening to him… but more than likely they’d be distracted by his voice as they tried to read ahead on his slides. People like to read what’s in front of them, and unless they’re four years old, they generally don’t like to wait for someone to read for them.

The presenter himself would not be necessary. He’s totally replaceable by PowerPoint!

I came across this slide deck, too. At first, I didn’t think it would be a very good example to put into this blog post. After all, there were so many holes in the narrative of this slide deck, I wasn’t always sure what point the presenter was trying to make.

Of course, that’s one of the things that actually makes this a good slide deck. The presenter didn’t put all of the information on her slides. Her slides offer a visual aid for her audience while the expertise, stories and narrative she offers provides the true value of her presentation.

Looking for some help in putting together a slide deck that will augment (not replace) you? Try this article.

Looking for some alternatives to PowerPoint? Click here.

10 Alternatives to PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi)

PowerPoint can be an incredibly powerful tool, but for too many presenters, it’s their go-to tool. Every. Single. Presentation.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here is a PowerPoint presentation I put together in order to share 10 alternative ideas to using PowerPoint:


(If you’re reading on a mobile device or cannot see the embedded PowerPoint presentation, click here)

What did I miss? I’d love to hear your alternatives to PowerPoint in the comments section below.

If you really, really, really, really need to use PowerPoint during your next presentation, be sure to check out this article:

Using PowerPoint? Take Some Ideas From These Spectacular Examples.

Cool PowerPoint Tricks: Real-time Polling

PowerPoint doesn’t need to be a 1-way medium of communication. Creative presenters may use PowerPoint to get ideas from the audience and write text on the screen in real time. Or perhaps turn PowerPoint into a game like Family Feud or Jeopardy (here’s a free PowerPoint-based Jeopardy template).

And thanks to PollEverywhere, presenters can embed interactive poll questions and results right into their presentation.

All you need is to visit, grab the PowerPoint slide template and insert it into your presentation.

Your audience members simply use their smart phones to text responses or respond via the polleverywhere website.

PollEverywhere PowerPoint Trick

This service is free for groups of 40 or fewer. Polleverywhere offers a range of pricing options and features for larger groups. I attended a session several weeks ago in which there were only 8 participants. Initially I thought: well, can’t the presenter just ask us to raise our hands? But I must admit, it was kind of fun and novel to vote on a response and then wait in suspense until the facilitator revealed the poll results.

Oh, there’s one more thing you need: the desire to allow your participants to get involved in your presentation. If you have the desire to engage your group, definitely check it out!

Have you found a technology that helps engage the audience? Let’s hear about it in the comments section below.

Want more tips, ideas, resources and insights on presentation skills and training? Hit the FOLLOW button at the top of the screen.

PowerPoint Tricks: Free Jeopardy Game Template

When used well, PowerPoint is a presentation tool that can engage and dazzle your audience. PowerPoint holds the potential to facilitate a give-and-take between the presenter and the audience.

Your Projector and Screen are Actually a Jeopardy Game Board

One example of how a presenter can involve his or her audience is by turning the projector screen into a giant game board. Click here to download a Jeopardy-like quiz game template.

Jeopardy Game Board

The instructions are on the first slide, but feel free to contact me if you have questions or need any help bringing this to your classroom or training room.

Looking for a different PowerPoint-based game? You can turn your PowerPoint presentation into a Family Feud-like game board.

Think someone else might enjoy this Jeopardy game template? Send this along.

Cool PowerPoint Tricks: Write on Your Slides During your Presentation

Sometimes you want to capture the audience’s responses in writing for all to see, but using flipchart just isn’t practical. Like in a room of 200 people. Or on a webinar. Or when you’re presenting in a place where it’s considered uncouth to come out from behind the podium.

Here is one simple way to turn a projector screen and an LCD projector into a giant piece of flipchart paper:

1. Open PowerPoint and start a new file (or go to the slide on which you’d like to capture responses in writing).

2. Click on the Developer tab



3. Select the Text Box (from the Controls menu)


4. Insert a Text Box where you’d like to record comments and/or write on your slide


That’s it. When you go to Presentation mode and come to this slide, you can ask your audience for their thoughts and type everything they say in this box, on the screen, in the moment. It’s a simple, quick and easy way to allow your audience to interact with you and your slides during a presentation.


Never want to miss out on tips to make your presentations more engaging? Hit the FOLLOW button at the top of the screen!

Interested in other PowerPoint-related topics? Try these articles:

  1. Create a Family Feud-like Game
  2. Trick out your next PowerPoint presentation
  3. Is your PowerPoint any good?
  4. Amazing examples of PowerPoint presentations
  5. More amazing examples of PowerPoint presentations

Trick Out My PowerPoint

PowerPoint is such an easy tool to use. Just because we use it, however, doesn’t mean we use it well.

The Challenge: Trick Out My PowerPoint!

The Trick Out My PowerPoint Challenge is an attempt to walk the everyday presenter through some very easy steps that can transform a normal (and mostly forgettable) PowerPoint deck into something a little more visually appealing, a little different, a little more interesting and a little more memorable.

Trick-out Artist #1:

PowerPoint Trick Out Artist 1

By day he’s a global training manager. By night he blogs and huffs Mr. Sketch markers (generally the cherry red or the blueberry blue). He’s never taken a graphic design course in his life. He just wants learning to be engaging and thinks anyone can do it. Give it up for Train Like A Champion blogger Brian Washburn!

Trick-out Artist #2:

PowerPoint Trick Out Artist 2

She’s a corporate learning leader and the voice of the phase(two)learning blog. She is just tall enough to get onto the Space Mountain ride at Disney World, has a slight shoe addiction, and has been bringing progressive learning experiences to the workplace for 15 years. Let’s hear it for Michelle Baker!

The Target:

A presentation Brian co-facilitated in 2008 at the Association for Experiential Education International Conference.

Some Initial Thoughts from the Trick-out Artists:

Brian: Honestly, the deck was serviceable. People came up to us afterwards and told us how much they enjoyed our presentation. Although I have to say, looking back on slides I created five and a half years ago, it seemed a bit like looking through an old high school yearbook. Sure, the spiked hair, skinny tie, pegged jeans and sweater vest worked for me back then, but in hindsight I probably could have (should have) done better. Same with these slides.

Michelle: Ha! Yes, this definitely looks like something from days of yore. The template is about as fresh as big, aqua-netted hair and stonewashed jeans. (Not that I’d know anything about that!) So, if you were going to freshen up these slides, what would you do?

Brian: If I was to take an hour or two to re-visit this slide deck and to trick it out as best as a non-graphic designer could trick something out, this is what I’d come up with:

Three simple things that I’d change about the original slide deck include:

1) Eliminate the template. There was a time when PowerPoint templates (just like pegged jeans) were the in-thing. Now templates that come loaded with PowerPoint are pretty stale and their pre-built borders and images take up valuable screen space.

2) Eliminate the clipart. I’m not sure if clipart was ever “in”. I’ve removed any vestiges of it and added several images of experiential education to give the audience an image to which they can relate.

3) Reduce the words. In an attempt to de-clutter the screen, I’ve removed several text-laden slides. I think a lot of the points from the slides that were removed could be delivered by the facilitators during the session (or better yet, they could be brainstormed by the audience and written on flipchart).

Michelle: Nice! I like the vivid imagery on the first several slides and the simplicity of the shapes and text throughout. Now it’s my turn… if you want to see something tricked out tricked out, then keep reading…

Here are three easy things I did to trick out these slides:

1) Don’t settle for the “default” font.  Did you know that hundreds of free fonts are out there for the taking? Two great resources are and Google Fonts. The large block-letter font is called BEBAS and the script font is called PACIFICO. I stuck with trusty Arial for standard text and bullet points, for easy readability. A word to the wise: Find 2-3 fonts that complement each other – do not go crazy! 

2) Ditch the template. Like Brian, I also unpegged my acid washed jeans, de-AquaNetted my hair and opted for a blank slide over a PowerPoint template. For some weird reason, a blank slide can be intimidating.  A simple tip to help align your text, images and spacing is to utilize the “view gridlines” feature: Under the “View” tab, simply check the “gridlines” checkbox. This has helped me many times!

 3) Let the visuals do the talking. In the “welcome” slide (slide #2), for example, I could have just typed the word “welcome”. Instead I used a large, simple graphic of a welcome mat to convey the same message in a more appealing way. On the next slide I used a man with a question mark over his face. When you look at the text (“What is the role of a facilitator?”) the learner is drawn into that simple graphic. After all, as facilitators, haven’t we all wondered what our role should be? That question mark over the face tells a story that doesn’t require bullet points. It doesn’t require an abundance of text. Looking at the photo, you just get it. Strategically placed visuals can replace the need for words. Your presentation should work in tandem with your slides. If you’re looking for free images, try Flickr’s Creative Commons licensing or Google Images. Just remember to give credit where due.

What did we miss? Is there something you’d have done to better “trick out” this deck? Let us know in the comments section.

Have a slide deck you’d like us to trick out? Drop a line to or

Know someone who could use some ideas to improve their PowerPoint skillz? Pass this along.

Using PowerPoint? Here are 3 more examples of amazing slides for you to copy!

In the past 5 years, I can’t remember the last time I attended a presentation that didn’t include PowerPoint. If you’re using PowerPoint (or Keynote), take a look at the following 3 presentations:

These presentations have obviously been put together by people with good graphic design sense. They’ve put a lot of time, thought and effort into creating these. If you don’t have hours and hours to put together your next slide deck, you can at least copy the following lessons from these amazing presentations:

  1. Not a single one of these slide decks is using a template from the Design tab in PowerPoint. Start with a blank page (as in NO BACKGROUND at all) and build your story from there. Speaking of stories, the second thing you can emulate is…
  2. Each presentation tells a story. None of these presentations dumps data on the audience with a seemingly endless string of graphs and charts and tables. When you’re putting together your next presentation, start with a question or a declaration of how you’ll solve a problem. And then build to the solution.
  3. Each presentation uses powerful imagery. I challenge you to find a single element of clip art in any of these presentations. When you’re putting together your slide deck, you can tap into your audience’s emotions by finding images and photos that go with your content. After all, when was the last time you saw a graph (or some clip art) that you remembered for years (or months or even days)?

One note of caution: each of these presentations was posted to Slideshare in order to stand alone. There’s a lot of text in these presentations that wouldn’t need to be there if you were presenting in person.

Looking for some more ways to create amazing visual presentations, check out these recent posts:

Think someone else could use some help with their slides? Pass this post along!

If you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills then you should probably follow this blog.

Flowchart: Is Your PowerPoint Any Good?

Want to deliver a killer presentation? You’re going to need top notch slides to accompany your delivery.

Have you put together a deck of top notch slides? I’ve put together a little flowchart (click here to download a pdf version) to help you check your work.

Is Your PowerPoint Any Good

Is there anything missing from the flowchart? Let me know in the comments section below.

Want some ideas of what an amazing PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation might look like? You may be interested in these previous posts:

Know of someone else who’s in need of killer PowerPoint design skills? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills, be sure to click “Follow”!

Improving Your PowerPoint Slide Design

When your PowerPoint slides have a lot of text, your audience will naturally want to read everything you’ve written. When your audience reads everything you’ve written, they can’t pay attention to what you might be saying. Your brain can’t actually read words and listen to someone talk at the same time (but don’t take my word for it, John Medina writes all about what the brain can and cannot do in his easy-to-digest book Brain Rules).

Put another way, it will be very challenging for your audience to be able to take in the amazing points you may want to make if your slide looks like this:

PowerPoint Slide Design Example 1

Keep in mind that your slides are not your presentation. I have been to a lot of conferences, and I’ve never heard anyone say: “I think I’ll go to Rebecca’s presentation because I bet her slides are going to knock our socks off!” Indeed, slides are more like your back-up singers while you (the presenter) are actually the rock star. And just like poor back-up singers can be incredibly annoying and distracting, poor slides (too much text, distracting and/or random clip art, obnoxious transitions, etc.) can really distract from your presentation.

When I had to prepare a presentation on worldwide corneal blindness, I took the above slide and converted it to the following:

PowerPoint Slide Design Example (2)

What Changed?

  • I replaced the standard PowerPoint template with a plain black background
  • I changed from standard font to Arial Narrow
  • I removed all content except for what I wanted the audience to focus on

As the imposing figure of 10,000,000 shines down on the audience, I will talk with the audience about what this number means and steps we can take to dramatically reduce the number of corneal blind in the world. I’ll share strategies and best practices, but I don’t want anyone in the audience to forget about the magnitude of the problem.

This slide has been transformed from a content-laden reference page to a powerful presentation aid that will set the mood for the point I want to make.

Should there be a hard and fast rule about how many words you should place on any given slide? No. Sometimes you need to put a bunch of words on a slide. But be judicious in your use of text… when your audience is reading your slides, they’re not paying attention to you.

Want to learn more about slide design? You may be interested in these articles:

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.