The Death of Sales by Putting Pretty Pictures in PowerPoint

Most PowerPoint and Keynote sales presentations suck (see “Why sales reps kill their customers with slideuments” article on Slideshare).  With 100 to 200 words per slide, these sales presentations use projectors to display texts meant to be read. This makes for lethal presentations, and is commonly referred to as “Death by PowerPoint”.

Death by beautiful Powerpoint

A new trend is to place pretty pictures in your PowerPoint. It’s different, but it’s not better. Phil Waknell rightly referred to this practice as “Death by (Pretty) PowerPoint” in his article entitled “The World’s Best WHAT Contest?,” which you can find on his excellent blog, Phil presents . This approach leads bad sales reps to show a close-up of a handshake when they want to talk about partnership, for instance.


In the beginning, when sales reps start to improve their presentations, 100% of the effect is based on images and animations. As you improve, you will see that there are other aspects to the art of creating effective sales presentations. I’m not saying you don’t need images. What I’m saying is that they are just one aspect of the Picture Superiority Effect, which is itself just one of the 20 key design principles that apply. I maintain that 90% of the solution lies elsewhere than in images. In the 21st century, designing effective sales presentation, and in fact using PowerPoint period, calls for much more than simply pasting images.

Often, a good slide does without an image. Nancy Duarte says: “Create ideas, not slides.”  A well-known, but very pointed, example is The Story of the Sign “Help me, I’m blind”.

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“What did you do to my sign?”… “I wrote the same… but in different words!”
(If you liked this video you can find the original WamaFilms version, a contender at the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2008, here:  At the time of writing of this article, it already had over a million views.)

I will be adding other articles to this blog on all the elements that make for good design, but for now, here is a list as a reminder:

  • The three major Zen aesthetic principles that Garr Reynolds features so eloquently in his book, PresentationZen: the concepts of Elegance, Simplicity and Naturalness
  • Garr Reynolds’ other concepts:  signal-to-noise ratio, negative space, flow of the presentation, and his four pillars of visual communication: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity
  • The principles of Nancy Duarte: Create ideas… not slides, the art of creating metaphors and ideas, the art of using diagrams to present ideas, accentuating key elements, slide flow, unity and templates
  • The broad universal principles, namely: color harmony and use of the color wheel, typography, the rule of thirds, and the picture superiority effect

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1 comment

  1. Thank you! I appreciate the mention.

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