How to Disarm PowerPoint

I have recently been alarmed by statements like this:

“..PowerPoint forces presenters to dumb down their arguments to bullet points, eliminating logical structure in favor of lists where everything carries the same weight.”

“… PowerPoint trains the presenter to be lazy.”

“PowerPoint boxes the presenter into “working, designing, thinking in a certain way,”

“PowerPoint, by its very nature, forces presenters to create bad presentations.”

“…mediocrity really is built into the functionality of PowerPoint itself.”

I had no idea. I’ve used PowerPoint for twenty years, and apparently, I have been brain-washed and everything I’ve done is crap.

What is it about PowerPoint that forces, trains, boxes in, etc. and generally destroys the will of the user? Well, I’m deeply familiar with PowerPoint and I find it difficult to find anything that forces anything. As far as I can see, everything is optional. That’s not to say that PowerPoint is perfect and that it can’t be used badly. I don’t know of any tool that can’t create disaster when used poorly, including a hammer or an airplane.

However, there is one thing I am suspicious about:  bullets.

Nobody likes bullets. I don’t like bullet lists and try not to use them. Nobody among the hundreds of gurus and advisers out there recommends bullets. Bulleted lists are a common target for PowerPoint critics. Clearly, a dense bullet list is deadly boring and restrictive and everybody knows there are better ways.

Yet, what happens when you open PowerPoint? First, you get a title slide.  OK, you can probably use that. Next you get an empty bullet list! The next “new slide” is also an empty bullet list!! My God! Is this the serpent’s fang?  s this the hypnotic, brain-washing trap that forces everybody to write bullets lists, over and over??

Although I personally find it difficult to believe that everyone is so weak-willed, the alarms expressed by corporate and government leaders are very serious. So, in the interest of the future of the nation and our children, I have decided to reveal how to create a safe version of PowerPoint.

So here’s how to disarm PowerPoint (the 2007 version, at least).

1. Open PowerPoint from scratch.  You will see a title slide.

2. View/Slide Master. The left pane will look like this (I have added notations):

Slide master and layoutsThese are the default slide layouts that Microsoft, in its great wisdom, has decided will meet all your needs for slides — and then some.

If the left pane does not appear, click the Normal slide view button twice, and then View/Slide Master.

3. Make sure the Slide Master is highlighted in the left pane; the Slide Master appears as the current slide.  Click on the bullet list placeholder  (outlined in red below) and delete it.

Slide Master

4. Right click on the Title and Content Layout and delete it.  Repeat for all layouts except Title, Title Only and Blank

5. Exit and save the presentation.

Now you have a benign presentation that will not “force” you to use bullet lists; that is, the default new slide is not a bullet slide. You can, if you want, create bullet lists using the Bullets button on the Home ribbon.  Since this is clearly an option (and not “forced”), I think it should be safe.

If you are among the one percent who actually uses the one or more of the various default Layouts, you can go through each one and delete the bulleted list placeholder. On the other hand, you may be beyond help.

If you use Themes (and you should), these changes will show up in saved Themes.

If you are uncomfortable making these changes yourself, let me know and I will send you a “safe” presentation.

I hope you will disarm PowerPoint immediately. If you don’t, your future, and the future of the nation, is apparently at risk.


Here are links to the sources for the quotes; dozens more are easy to find:

Does PowerPoint make you stupid?
Top 10 reasons to dump PowerPoint
PowerPoint is guilty but redeemable

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