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All about PowerPoint Poisoning (PD)


Powerpoint Poisoning is a direct consequence of the Powerpoint Disease.

So what is the Powerpoint Disease, known commonly as PD?

The academic literature (Visterin et al., 2012) defines PD as the irresistable urge to create and deliver a presentation with a quantity of slides that ‘poisons’ the audience. This poisoning is a gradual process, starting with absent-mindedness but sometimes leading to outright dozing. Even Out-of-body experiences have been observed.

How is PD caused?

Powerpoint is made for flipping slides and once the train gets rolling, it is hard to stop it. The 100 slides are numbered and after 1 comes 2 and then 3 and then 4 and … the audience is lost. When using Powerpoint, people tend to put in everything they have to say to the world and then start beaming the message. And often there is a lot of message on one slide. Why are slides often so full of text? Why is nobody asking questions? That’s because a document page looks so empty if you just put some fragments of sentences. Giving answers seems to be much more straight forward than engaging discussions. If you type your text in powerpoint, even a few sentences fill the page. So we don’t write a document, but cram the message in a slide. Also, once poisoned, your audience doesn’t pay any attention. Luckily you can hand out the slides. That’s why you need to put a lot of text, and because of all the text your presentation gets drowned in details and takes forever, and that’s when the poisoning kicks in…. you see: a self-enforcing, complicated disease.

PD is also a complicated condition because the bearer of the disease is not suffering most of the consequences. People exposed to the disease show immediate adverse effects of PD. The bearers only show longer time adverse effects caused by a general categorisation  as “poisoneous”, where it could well be the bearer is only poisoning during presentations and is able to have a conversation when not using Powerpoint.

Prevalence of PD

PD it quite common in, but not restricted to, business environments. Even on weddings, PD can occur.

Hippopotamuses suffer most from PD. Those are people with small ears and big mouths: they talk and talk and talk and don’t ask your feedback.

Effects of PD

Infection by PD leads to a state of trance that  makes the bearer immune for signals that the audience is getting poisoned (for instance: tapping on their smartphones). Those slides have to get pushed, every letter has to be read out.

Most research has been done about the prevalence of PD in business environments. As long as PD is contained to internal meanings, the effects of the disease are considered harmless to business results. The consequences for the people  (typically colleagues) exposed to PD are a waste of time, pain in the neck and bad breath.

When employees allowed to roam outside the company are infected with PD, the effects for the company are dire: commonly observed are low response rate of prospects, a resistance to inviting sales people, low follow-up of sales meetings. Research clearly shows PD is a stopper of the sales process. Leads are stalled and opportunities evaporate after prospects and customers are exposed to PD.

How to cure PD?

PD does not disappear. A treatment is required:

  • Separate presentation from handouts
  • Only the main messages on a slide –  6×7   (max 6 lines of max 7 words) . A full screen image is even better
  • Ask questions: challenge your audience
  • Use the hyperlinks in Powerpoint and create tree structures. Then you can ask your audience what they are interested to hear. More on this in a next post

About Kenny Wyckmans

Kenny is Marketing manager at d!NK. He joined the company in its early days. Passionate about marketing & digital communication, Kenny keeps the pulse on d!NK’s market. He is in daily contact with d!NK’s customers and prospects to understand their sales interactions and detect opportunities for d!NK to improve the sales effectiveness. An entrepreneur at heart, Kenny founded his webdesign agency in 2006 while still at school.

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