Time to ditch the PowerPoint?

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Is there a point to PowerPoint?  Jack Downton believes that it gets in the way of delivering a good presentation.  In this article he argues why.

Is there a point to PowerPoint? The opportunity to present facts and figures, slides and graphs, data and numbers, proves too much for some, and often enough information is crammed into PowerPoint to fill a phone book. However, the aim of any presentation should be to command the undivided attention of your audience. When Barack Obama delivered his inauguration address in Washington DC, he didn’t ask the million-strong crowd in front of him to direct their attention to ‘Slide B’.

And for centuries, politicians, leaders and academics have given rousing speeches without so much as a glimpse of a screen – in fact, I’m not sure how well Churchill would have fared if he’d actually said, “We shall fight them on the beaches – like this one shown here for illustrative purposes”.

PowerPoint has its place and is often a wonderful resource, but it needs to be used appropriately.  The brain doesn’t listen and read at the same time. If you’re talking and there’s a slide up with text and data, no one will be listening to what you’re saying. With slides you need to remember that the audience will not be concentrating on you. And if they aren’t concentrating on you, they certainly won’t remember your points or be influenced by what you are saying. Ask yourself, who have they come to see – you as a highly competent professional or you as a highly paid slide show operator?

Also ask yourself if the slides are for your benefit or the audience’s.  If the slides are really your notes, don’t use them.

Yet if you need to use slides, just allow your audience time to take the information in. Keep sentences short, provide only key points on your slide, and limit punctuation and abbreviations.  If used, use them sparingly, especially those containing only words. Introduce the slide before you show it, have key data highlighted and give the audience a chance to read the data before talking over the slide (remember they can’t read the chart and listen carefully to you simultaneously).

If you do use slides, keep them to a minimum. The number of slides depends on the length of your presentation, but the fewer the better, or impact is lost. Consider including the odd blank slide which will ensure you regain the focus of attention. Or go without them entirely. You need to shine, not the screen…

Jack Downton

Jack Downton

Jack Downton is the Managing Director of The Influence Business (www.theinfluencebusiness.com)


Published On: 14th Dec 2009

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