Stop! Public Speakers Need To Step Away From The PowerPoint…

Sometimes using PowerPoint is the wrong decision to make…
Sometimes using PowerPoint is the wrong decision to make…

When somebody asks you to give a speech do you start thinking about the PowerPoint (or Keynote for you Mac users) slides that you’ll have to create? Do you ask the person how long the speech needs to be just in order to determine how many slides that you’ll need to make? Stop! Maybe it’s time that we all take a step back from the keyboard and those books about PowerPoint presentation tips and instead spend a moment thinking about when it’s appropriate to use PowerPoint – and when it’s not!

When Should You Use PowerPoint?

We all like to make fun of PowerPoint – have you heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint”? Even though we dread going to presentations that other people are going to be showing us their PowerPoint slides, we have no problem creating volumes of slides to use at our presentation.

This all leads to the interesting question: maybe we should all stop using PowerPoint all together? Well, maybe — but probably not. PowerPoint was created and has caught on for a reason – it’s very good at doing what it was intended to do.

What PowerPoint does well is to help a speaker to boost the importance of their public speaking by helping them to visually display information. Things that could require a long explanation in order to make our audience understand what we are talking about can be quickly communicated using PowerPoint. It gives us the ability to share graphs, charts, photos, and even videos as a part of a speech. This is powerful stuff.

When Should You Not Use PowerPoint?

With all that being said, you might be lead to believe that every speech needs to have a bit of PowerPoint added to it. Now there you’d be wrong. Many of the speeches that we give, such as motivational speeches, are really all about the speaker – you. These kinds of speeches call for your audience to use their listening skills, not their eyes in order to learn. Adding PowerPoint, or even worse the wrong kind of PowerPoint, to this type of speech can take away from your main message.

What’s going on here is that we all need to learn how to take a step back and make a decision about using PowerPoint with a speech long before we sit down at a keyboard and start to pull our next slide deck together.

The first thing that should come into your mind is the simple fact that you need to decide on what the purpose of your next speech is. What is the strategy that you’re going to use to get your message across to your audience? Once you know this, then you can consider if PowerPoint will help or hinder your ability to accomplish it.

If you do choose to use PowerPoint then you’ve got another decision to make. You’ve got to determine how many slides you want to use. You may be surprised to learn that the correct answer is “as few as possible”. You want to use just enough slides to help you get your point across and not one more. Create a slide deck and then go through it cutting out as many slides as you possibly can. When you can cut no more, then you’ve got the right number of slides.

What All Of This Means For You

PowerPoint is a powerful tool that public speakers can use to communicate information visually – after all, isn’t this one of the benefits of public speaking? However, if we’re not careful we’ll end up using it when we really shouldn’t.

If you are going to be giving a speech in which your goal is to communicate information, then using PowerPoint may be a good idea. As always, you need to take steps to make sure that your slides don’t overwhelm the message that you are trying to convey.

If instead of communicating information, you are trying to inspire or motivate an audience, then think twice about using PowerPoint. Create the strategy that you want to use with your speech and identify the message that you want to get across. Then determine how many, if any, slides you’ll need in order to accomplish this task.

As with all powerful tools, PowerPoint can either help or hinder your next speech. When asked to speak, spend your time thinking about what you want to accomplish and then determine if PowerPoint can help you do this. Not the other way around!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think your speech could be more powerful if your audience is expecting you to use PowerPoint slides and you don’t?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Hey speaker, how good of a speaker are you when you don’t get a chance to show up? I’m not talking about blowing off a speaking gig, rather I’m talking about that virtual stage that all of us find ourselves occupying all too often: the teleconference. You might not view this as an opportunity to give a speech, but it is!