To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint?
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
I’m baffled about why so many presenters insist on using PowerPoint (PPT). This presentation tool was invented by Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin for the American computer software company Forethought, Inc., over 30 years ago. Most software programs wane in popularity over time; many get replaced by something better. But PowerPoint, christened Presenter in 1987, which was a good product when it was created, is still widely regarded as the best presentation tool on the market.
Why is this? Well, a fancy PowerPoint slide deck can make a weak presenter come across better by helping:
Stay on track
Distract attention from average speaking skills
Make vapid content a bit more interesting
And let’s face it. There something attractive about the ability to press a computer button and instantly become more cogent.
The truth is that PPT often benefits speakers more than audiences. A pre-packaged slide show provides comfort to speakers in the way of:
Pre-arranged talking points
An approved information sequence
A trendy visual-aid
A chance to be like other speakers who use the same presentation tool
Let's be clear: the famous phrase "death by PowerPoint" is not referring to the demise of the speaker.
But does PPT really help?
So, yes, PowerPoint can make you more like all the other speakers. But being like everyone else is not always helpful--especially if most other presenters are average. If you want to truly connect with your audience, you should forgo presentation tricks and rely on good old-fashioned oratory.
Think about the most important messages a person can deliver. You wouldn’t use PowerPoint on a date, would you? A job interview? If you have to let someone go from a job or deliver bad news, you don’t whip out a slide deck, do you?
If you think enough of your message, you’ll want to craft the content through practice and revision. You’ll want to deliver it with sustained eye contact and and verbal expression, not colors, fancy fonts and transitions. If you think enough of your audience, you won’t torture them with yet another lame PowerPoint presentation replete with silly slides and unremarkable graphics. When working with clients in the online Present Like a Pro speaker course, I teach how to do a unique and effective one-slide presentation. Of course, we also talk about how to stop using PowerPoint altogether.
I stopped using PowerPoint over ten years ago and on that day, I became a better communicator. You, too, will be a better speaker when you throw away your presentation crutches.
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