9 alternatives to PowerPoint that will really make your presentation sparkle

Groan! PowerPoint again? I don’t know about you, but I just hate the sinking feeling of walking into a conference room expecting something exciting to happen, and instead getting a bunch of slides telling you how much stuff costs and how that affects your company’s bottom line. Yawn!

Rather than trying to spice up your PowerPoint with comedy tricks and technical ka-zowie, why not look at alternatives to this purgatorial format? Marketers and business types across the globe are finding new ways to get information into the medulla oblongatas of meeting attendees. Now you can, too.

Power-Point Alternative #1: Mass Hypnotism

You want your information to have sticking power, right? Well, a little-known trick to successful implantation of thoughts, feelings, and impulses is the power of mind control. It’s easy: Simply have your meeting attendees kidnapped by Soviet and Manchurian operatives who brainwash them into believing every word of your presentation. If they ever forget, just show them the Queen of Hearts. (Am I the only one who saw this movie? Angela Lansbury. Not the remake. Classic. #TCMParty)

Power-Point Alternative #2: Scent of a Budget

Smells are a powerful memory tool. The reason for this is the location of the olfactory … things … in the hippocampus, which is in the … brain … part. Anyway! Science!

So: During your presentation, don’t bother with visual assets. Instead, pass out individual-sized jars of Carmex and instruct everyone to open them up and inhale deeply while you speak. Whenever you need them to call up the information you’re presenting to them, open your own jar of Carmex and wave it under their noses. The scent will immediately call up every precious word you presented to them.

Power-Point Alternative #3: Hand-Written Sticky Notes

Just yesterday, someone said to me, “I’ll never forget those invitations you made for your thirtieth birthday party. They were so funny!” Hm, did someone say unforgettable?

Instead of pouring your energy and time into a soulless and sterile tech solution that will vanish with the click of a mouse, ladle it instead into individually-crafted artisan creations that your attendees can take back to their desks and cherish forever. What’s more likely –  that they’ll go hunting for the data using command-C, or that they’ll look up at the Post-It pinned next to their picture of their duck-faced friend, thereby cementing the info contained therein?

Don’t answer. It’s rhetorical.

Power-Point Alternative #4: Create a Mind Palace of Your Marketing Plan

Fans of Sherlock, starring Schmendrick Mahumperback, might know that the classic detective character – played by Humperdink Tunnelwreck in the BBC version – employs a memory trick called the “mind palace” that harkens from ancient Greece.

The idea is to place every item you want to remember in an imaginary room of an imaginary house; to recall these items, you would “walk through” the path you created and peek into each room to “see” the item ensconced there. Just like Hammerhead Flagglerock, you can “walk” your meeting attendees through a mansion created solely out of your sales targets and associated assets. Easy-peasy benedy-cumberbeedy!

Power-Point Alternative #5: Take 8 Seconds to Make Your Most Important Points

According to unsubstantiated rumors, it takes 8 seconds to commit an important fact to memory. For instance, you will remember where you parked if you pause for 8 seconds to focus on your car before racing into Target.

8 seconds! C’mon! If Luke Perry can stay on a horse that long, you can focus on a … what was I saying? Anyway, try this: Give out an important bullet point, such as “Tablet users surpassed both desktop PC users and notebook PC users in the second and third quarters of 2012, respectively.”

Rather than providing a visual cue for this information, stop and let it sink in. Lean in to your meeting. Put your knuckles on the table, then rap upon it in a staccato fashion as you repeat that fact, slowly, for eight seconds. Then move on to the next bullet point. Who could forget that?

Power-Point Alternative #6: Break The Ice – Literally

Ever been to one of those super-classy weddings with an ice sculpture of a couple embracing next to a pair of swans lit with mauve light from below, so that after a half hour the whole thing looks like the nazi-melting scene in Indiana Jones and the floor is so wet you have to cordon it off with yellow caution tape? Good times.

With that in mind, go straight to the head of your department and demand a budget big enough for a really memorable presentation. Have your power point slides etched into ice. Have that ice placed at the center of the conference table. Then, when everyone is seated, turn your iPhone on to “Eye of the Tiger” at top volume, run in, and smash the whole thing with a meat-tenderizing mallet. Think anyone will forget that meeting? Bam.

Power-Point Alternative #7: Serve Brain Food

People looking to improve their memory are encouraged to eat foods high in Vitamin E, folic acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids. So instead of donuts, serve bowls of tuna fish, spinach, and sunflower seeds at your next meeting. Your attendees’ cardiologists will thank you – and so will they, when they see how well they remember everything you said.

Further research shows that increased exercise also has a beneficial effect on memory retention, so go ahead and have that meeting at the gym, with everyone walking on treadmills arranged in a circle. Stand in the center and spoon tuna into everyone’s mouth as you give your PowerPoint-less presentation. Oh, they’ll remember it, all right.

Power-Point Alternative #8: Tell Your Story Entirely In Emoji

Many companies are pivoting to a millennial model – providing vertical assets to digital natives in a collaborative environment. Obviously, the ideal “meeting presentation” would be a Snapchat story shared with your team, but we all know there are certain fuddy-duddies who still can’t hang, amirite? So harness the power of visual stimulation to make your attendees think – which will amplify your points by requiring multiple senses to understand them.

👀 ➕🗣🔝🤔🌟

Power-Point Alternative #9: Use an Actual Slide Projector

What was more riveting than seeing Don Draper deliver an impassioned defense of the slide carousel? Everyone wants to be Don Draper. Even Jon Hamm wishes he were Don Draper, for crap’s sake. So create PowerPoint slides, sure – but then send them to an online vendor (oh, they exist) to be printed on acetate slides suitable for projection. When they arrive, call your meeting and give your presentation using your smoothest, most patriarchal tone. Then fly into a rage and shove everything off your desk because RAAR DON DRAPER!

With these amazing strategies in your quiver, you’ll be sure to hit the bullseye at your next corporate presentation. If not, don’t blame me! I work from home for a reason!


Read Amy’s bio here.

How to make your PowerPoint funnier

When it comes to putting people to sleep, not even Ambien can rival the prowess of the PowerPoint. Invented in 1990 by technology and sleep wizard Bill Gates, the PowerPoint has been sedating students, coworkers, and even our loved ones for almost three decades. My grandmother went to a timeshare presentation in April and STILL hasn’t woken up.

An obvious solution: make it funny. A Harvard Business School study confirms that humor—when it works—makes people listen more closely and see you as confident and competent.

At work and in general—”men are more free to bomb,” says comedian Allison Goldberg, who works with Jen Jamula at GoldJam Creative to bring comedy and creativity into workplaces. “Men are just given a lot more leeway for everything. A guy bombs and people forget it, a woman does and people don’t.”

But DO NOT FEAR. The stakes may feel high, but remember: the bar is low. This is your sales meeting, not 2 Dope Queens. “The crowd is not expecting to laugh their asses off,” says Goldberg. Keep in mind that every workplace environment is different. It’s crucial to know your audience and to have a grasp on what they will find both appropriate and funny. 

Here are our tips for sprinkling your PowerPoint with comedy gold.

1. Unexpected animations

If you took an Intro to Computers class in middle school, you probably learned how to use Animations. They allow text, words, and pictures to have a little bit of motion. And alongside language and sound, motion is a crucial tenet of any comedy. Which is why pet rocks were never that funny.

This example below shows how an animation can spice up an otherwise boring presentation about Shia LaBeouf’s mug.

The Animations tool bar is located on the main toolbar between Transitions and Slideshow. You can give your animations a sudden entrance, an exaggerated emphasis, or even a sudden exit for a quick laugh.

2. Silly acronyms

This is one of my all-time favorite bits. There are a few ways to go about this joke. Some options include the nonsense acronym, the forced acronym, or the impossible to remember acronym. Check out these various examples about how to organize your computer’s desktop.

A nonsense acronym creates an acronym that is wholly unhelpful in completing the task.

The forced acronym uses a lot of roundabout letters to achieve its purpose.

And finally, there’s the impossible-to-remember acronym. This acronym actually contains the necessary information but assumes that the audience can remember many jumbled letters.

This particular joke is especially effective if you attempt to pronounce the acronym in your presentation. It might even be fun to get your audience to try and pronounce it too!

3. Non-sequitur statistics

Paul Rudd perfected this joke in the hit film Anchorman. When describing his cologne “Sex Panther” and its ability to pick up women, Rudd’s character repeatedly cites that “60% of the time, it works every time.” This joke can easily be inserted into any PowerPoint that involves quantifiable statistics.

Take this example joke slide that would be perfect for anyone in the kayaking business. (This slide is great because it uses the ‘Rule of Three:’ two real statistics and one silly one.)

This joke always reminds me of the time my ex-boyfriend said he only “50% cheated on me,” which was his way of saying that he had made out with another guy.

HOW TO DO COMEDY: AN ONLINE WORKSHOP FOR GIRLS + “OTHERS”

LIKE SCHOOL, ONLY FUNNY

4. Punchline-set up slides

What better way to be funny in a PowerPoint than setting yourself up for a killer punchline? These kinds of jokes are used all the time on Late Night TV shows and on famous segments like SNL’s Weekend Update. Personally, I find these kinds of jokes are most effective when the setup is said verbally (as opposed to on a slide) and the punchline is a simple image or statement on the next slide.

Here’s an example:

In your speech, create the set-up by saying something in the form of a question. If your presentation were about how to improve the quality of living in your Quebec neighborhood, you’d say something along the lines of, “So how do we reduce widespread noise pollution?”

After an appropriate “beat,” or comedic moment of silence, the punchline slide would be revealed:

Of course, this example takes a strong stance on Canadian rock band Nickelback and may not be appropriate for a pitch with . But hopefully it can inspire you to create the perfect punchline that works for your presentation!

5. Random ‘palate cleanser’ slide

Is your presentation droning on and on? Or perhaps you’re giving a presentation about a heavier, more serious topic. Maybe it’s time for a palate cleanser. These random slides can range from silly animals photos, to memes, or even an embarrassing photo from your childhood.

During a heavy presentation about sexism and violence against women in media, feminist author and friend of GOLD Comedy Jenn Pozner once employed a palate cleanser by including a slide with “some baby kittens hanging from a few pairs of underpants on a clothesline.” Mid-presentation, she exclaimed, “KITTENS! Deep breath. 1… 2… 3… OK, feel better? Good. Moving on.” This was a great way for Jenn to both make her audience feel more at ease and to add humor to a tense lecture.

Take this slide, as another example of a palate cleanser.

Needless to say, I went to my mom for my Halloween costume the next year.

6. End with a Q&A… for the audience

Most presentations conclude with a question and answer section where the audience asks the presenter about what they just heard. Before doing this, I recommend you flip the script and ask the audience questions about your presentation material.

This is a great time to call people out if you know them by name and/or have a relatively informal relationship with them. People loved being acknowledged during presentations and love being called out for not paying attention even more!

Offer candy or other small rewards to people that get questions right. This keeps people engaged and can be a great way to end your presentation!

Or your article about making funny PowerPoints!

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CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith