One of the best things about evaluation conferences is that you get a chance to see your former coworkers (aka. friends!) all in one place.

I ran into my former teammate at the Eastern Evaluation Research Society’s annual conference just last weekend. After catching up on all the usual things (our current jobs, his adorable kids, etc.), we started talking about some of the best presentations we’d seen so far.

I was telling my teammate about the American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative and how there will be plenty of trainings in the near future.

“They’ll teach us great strategies,” I told him. “Like how to use fewer words on our slides, position the words and images to really get our messages across, and make sure our message is heard.”

“Why would we want to change our PowerPoints?” he asked me.

“Well… you know, the whole ‘Death by PowerPoint’ idea. Pasting an entire paragraph into PowerPoint and then reading the paragraph aloud for the audience is pretty, well, ineffective,” I said.

“But clients like to read my PowerPoints on their laptop when they’re in bed,” he explained to me. “They want the PowerPoint to be like an executive summary of the entire evaluation project so they can read it the night before a big meeting. They expect my PowerPoint to have a lot of text. Clients want full paragraphs, and bullet points, and not too many images. It should read like a book, or at least a really descriptive brochure.”

Hmmm.

There are clearly different purposes for PowerPoints – as the backdrop for verbal conference presentations, as a deliverable to clients that should read like an executive summary of the project, or even to use as a handout in a meeting.

There’s no “one size fits all” PowerPoint design, but perhaps evaluators can learn how to design PowerPoints differently for each of these different purposes?

– Ann Emery