Fun Friday: death by powerpoint 3

As engineers and scientists, we deal with complex and technical subjects.  We also need to communicate effectively with others on these topics.  PowerPoint can be a useful tool, but too often it becomes a weapon with collateral damage against your audience.  Here is a hilarious video from stand-up comedian Don McMillan from 2010 about how NOT to use PowerPoint.  Lots of graphs and data for the engineers and geeks!

On the next blog post, I’ll share a technique I learned from a world-recognized expert on effective presentations that instantly transformed my approach and effectiveness for the better, dramatically. I credit this approach to persuading my management to acquire the first 3-D printer for our site.  And for providing a room for employees to work on their own innovation projects.  Quite powerful, eh?  Even the most dry and technical presentation topics can use this approach too.

Until then, I need to get ready for my Toastmasters meeting later today.  As I explain in Tip #10 in my book, one of the best ways you can stand out as a great rocket scientist or aerospace professional is to be an effective communicator and presenter.  If it weren’t for Toastmasters I would still be nervous, reluctant, afraid, and plain bad at giving presentations.  It has helped me tremendously with one-on-one, interviewing, and impromptu speaking too.  If you want to avoid death by PowerPoint, find a nearby Toastmaster club and visit a meeting.  Another powerful tip comes tomorrow.

By the way – this is the last day for the free eBook promotion on Amazon! If you didn’t get it yet go here:


About Brett Rocket Scientist

Brett creates artful work in engineering, ideas, and innovation. In addition to 2 degrees, 3 patents, and over 15 years experience in aerospace engineering, he is the author of several books to foster STEM careers. He volunteers his time and skills as an officer with professional societies.

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3 thoughts on “Fun Friday: death by powerpoint

  • flystraightup

    For a more serious treatment of the shortcomings of PowerPoint™ in a technical setting, may I recommend the writings of Edward Tufte? His book, Visual Display of Quantitative Data, has been required reading for practicing engineers and scientists (i.e. “rocket scientists”) for decades. See his blog entry “PowerPoint does Rocket Science” for some concrete examples of poor communication fostered by PP™.

    Tufte pointed out the role of PowerPoint™ in both the Challenger and Columbia accidents, although it was as a symptom, rather than a cause.

    Tufte makes his case against what he calls the cognitive style of PowerPoint™ in an article in Wired, “PowerPoint is Evil.” And for all the gory details, see his book on the subject, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.

    In my personal experience, I have seen most of the bad examples given by Tufte and by McMillan above in actual NASA and DoD presentations!! What’s more, organizations make these poor practices de rigueur for staff, and I can tell everyone that going against some of these bad practices is difficult: it comes under the acronym CLM — “Career-Limiting Move.” I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it was…

    And as an aside to the cult of Mac: Keynote isn’t any better…