Intended for healthcare professionals

Filler A day in the life of a doctor

The PowerPoint presentation

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 20 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1292
  1. David Isaacs, senior staff specialist1,
  2. Stephen Isaacs, consultant2,
  3. Dominic Fitzgerald, senior staff specialist3
  1. 1Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Waltham Forest Child and Family Consultation Service, London
  3. 3Department of Respiratory Medicine, Children’s Hospital at Westmead
  1. davidi{at}

    The main purpose of a PowerPoint presentation is entertainment. Intellectual content is an unwarranted distraction. In preparing a PowerPoint presentation, aesthetics should transcend substance.

    The background colour scheme and logo for your slides should be selected for maximum emetogenic potential. The first inverse ridicule rule of PowerPoint presentation states: “The more lines of writing that can be coerced onto a slide and the smaller the font, the lower the risk of anyone criticising any data which has accidentally been included.” The second rule states: “The number of slides you can show in your allotted time is inversely proportional to the number of awkward questions which can be asked at the end.” PowerPoint has superseded the carousel era, when presentations were severely limited by the number of slots in the slide carousel and the risk of dropping the lot seconds before your talk.

    Plagiarism laws do not apply to PowerPoint, so cartoons of marginal relevance but high entertainment value can be downloaded and shown at suitable intervals to maintain audience mirth while minimising critical capacity. Research has shown that the ideal cartoon:data ratio is 5:1.

    The seasoned PowerPoint artist or PowerPointilliste has refined the presentation into a son-et-lumiere extravaganza, in which scattered dots and luminescent clumps of meaningless datasets hurtle on to the screen from all points of the compass, to the strident strains of Handel’s Fireworks Music, building inexorably to a Fantasia-style Sorcerer’s Apprentice climax. This fulfils an important subsidiary purpose of the PowerPoint presentation—to act as a bioassay of the epileptic threshold of the audience, a form of PowerPoint EEG.

    PowerPoint has spawned a number of hitherto unrecognised medical diseases. These include PowerPoint phobia (PPP), PowerPoint stress disorder (PPSD), and a virulent form of major depression called PowerPointlessness.

    Yet another purpose of the PowerPoint presentation is to test the capacity of the regional electricity grid. In case this should be found wanting, and your presentation succeeds in fusing the power supply to the surrounding region, it is advisable to have a back-up presentation, a box of matches and a Chinese lantern.