The Atomic Method of Creating a PowerPoint Presentation

Seth Godin is the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. They are bestsellers. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it. This post is part of a series based on original posts by Seth.

In this blog post from 13 October 2011, Seth suggests an interesting way of creating a PowerPoint presentation: Determine how many minutes you have to speak; figure on speaking at least 10 sentences per minute; design a slide for each sentence; work on consolidating or dropping slides as appropriate.

It’s an interesting approach. I’m not sure how practical it would be for the average presentation—if you had 15 minutes to speak, that’s 150 slides to start the process—but there is no denying that the amount of effort you put into your presentation has a big impact on the effect you make.

I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of breaking concepts down into the smallest possible “atoms” and only then consolidating them if it makes sense to do so. It means that you are thinking about your presentation properly.

And as for slide design, I am a big fan of what Leonard da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I agree with Seth that a slide should convey a singe idea, and I like slides with arresting images and/or one or a couple of key words.

However, I am going to part ways with him on bullet points. To say that one should never use bullets points is too extreme, in my view. There is no question that audiences have faced an unnecessary (and unhelpful) barrage of bullet points over the years, so the urge to banish them forever is understandable. Still, I think that, if used properly—a big “if”, I grant you—bullet points can be effective.

But the lowly bullet point will be the subject of a future post. For now, enjoy Seth’s article below.


The Atomic Method of Creating a PowerPoint Presentation

by Seth Godin

The typical person speaks 10 or 12 sentences a minute.

The atomic method requires you to create a slide for each sentence. For a five minute talk, that’s 50 slides.

Each slide must have either a single word, a single image or a single idea.

Make all 50 slides. Force yourself to break each concept into the smallest possible atom. If it’s not worthy of a slide, don’t say it.

Once you have 50 slides, do the talk in practice. Remove slides and sentences that add no value or don’t move you forward.

Now (and only now), start consolidating slides. If two or three or four slides work together as one, then go ahead and make them one. You’ve got molecules now, not atoms.

At this point, you can either get rid of slides altogether, keep them as is or lump them one more time into bigger ideas. But no (!) bullets please. What a waste those are.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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3 Responses to The Atomic Method of Creating a PowerPoint Presentation

  1. Pingback: The Atomic Method of Creating a PowerPoint Presentation | Manner …

  2. This topic offers an ultimate ouiji board upon which to share and gain ideas!

    My Toastmasters club is hosting a series of presentations about Powerpoint software, it’s use and various applications. I plan to visit this arena again and again for ideas.


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