To “Power Point” or Not to “Power Point” – That is a fundamental question

Communication happens in a variety of settings.  For leaders, the venues in which we communicate are varied.  They may be one-on-one interactions, a classroom or learning situations, meetings, lectures, and presentations  to general audiences.  For those large venues, there is a key question – do I use “Power Point” or slides – or not?

Anymore there is an expectation that “Power Point” will be a key element of the presentation.  In our multimedia society – we have come to expect our speakers to present in a multimedia fashion – but is it truly necessary? And what happens if there is a technical glitch?  (We have all seen what happens if you happen to be in the political spotlight – you are likely to become late night comedy fodder.)

So – do you use Power Point or not?  The answer of course is not as simple as yes or no.  It depends.  It depends on – the audience, the type of information to be conveyed, and the ultimate point you want to make.  Of course you are going to use slides to convey technical information like graphs, and diagrams – particularly if you are speaking to investors.  But, what about the Garden Club or the Community Action Group or to the Boy Scout Troop – your choice may be very different.

I have the opportunity to speak about science to a variety of audiences – some I use a set of slides with maps, photos, and diagrams and others I leave the slides at home and bring simple props – ping pong balls, balloons, glasses of water, silverware, etc.  It depends on the points I am trying to make and my audience.  Which type of talk do you think people remember most?  It is the one where I use my simple props.

By over using multimedia presentation materials – we as communicators have become very lazy.  It is easy to throw a Power Point presentation together.  When we do this we tend to leave out those intangible things – excitement, inspiration, creativity, and engagement.  Our audiences are not as engaged.  We fail to make a personal connection.  We don’t actively involve them in the vision we are trying to convey.

Here is an experiment for you.  It has been said that writing for radio takes a very special talent and that many screen writers were unable to write for the radio dramas and comedies of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.  Get a hold of an old radio drama or listen to one on satellite radio.  Think about how you interact with that particular program and compare it to how you interact with a television or video program of the same genre.  Which one held your attention more?  Which one stimulated you more?

Think about this experiment the next time you have to give that presentation.  How can you engage your audience?  What tools can you use to make it more memorable?  You may find that you are going to leave the “Power Point” behind – or just use it to point out the emergency exits.


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