Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Powerpoint: presentations versus pitchbooks

I hear a lot of commentary about the use and misuse of Powerpoint. Not all of it is helpful.

The fact is, the best way to use Powerpoint depends on your purpose.

In my work, I usually distinguish between presentations and pitchbooks:

Presentations are usually projected onto a large screen, and delivered to a large audience. Slides should contain few words in large fonts, clear and simple charts or emotive images. Signpost slides may be repeated to re-enforce key messages and structure. The notes area is best used for speakers notes as an aide-memoire.

Pitchbooks, on the other hand, are delivered in printed format to smaller audiences - usually no more than a dozen people sitting around a table turning pages together. As such, they typically contain more words, in smaller fonts (typically as small as 12 or even 10 point), and more complex and detailed charts, tables & figures. Page size is typically optimised for print (i.e. A4). The notes area is best used for more detailed data references, derivations and calculations.

The point is to know what you're trying to achieve, and use Powerpoint to help you best achieve it.

  • I've seen many people use MS Word for their pitchbooks. It seems more sensible as a pitchbook is more like a document than it is like a presentation. However, Powerpoint offers a number of advantages over MS Word, such as slide sorting, more control over layout, and the enforcement of 1 slide 1 idea.
  • All of the above is as true for most presentation and word-processing software as it is for Microsoft Powerpoint and Microsoft Word.