For many of us, when we are asked to give a speech, lecture or presentation, our first thought is always ‘what will the Powerpoint look like?’. The way in which we have taken Powerpoint to our hearts (and in more recent times, Prezi) has caused us to forget that for thousands of years, public speakers succeeded without the support of a series of slides projected on to a screen.
Have you ever witnessed a presentation that has been destroyed by the slides projected behind the speaker?
The words on those slides have given the game away too early…
The slides have detracted from the speaker’s presence…
or perhaps (and this is often the worst)…
the speaker has lost his/her way with the slides, mumbled something about ‘you can never trust technology’ and quickly descended into a bundle of nerves, never to recover their poise, posture and projection.
And so, this is a call to arms, a cry from the hills, a declaration of sorts, carefully scripted to ask the public speaking masses to realise that there are some of us that are better than Powerpoint.
To these people I say: ‘We don’t need Powerpoint, we don’t need projectors and we most certainly do not need a pointer – our role is to deliver our message to an audience and anything that gets in our way must be sacrificed. Regardless of whether it is produced by Microsoft or not.’
So who needs to sacrifice the slides?
Speakers that tell stories, that look their audience in the eye, those that boom to the back of the room and those that pull their audience in through a combination of confidence and clarity, these are the speakers that need to lose the slides and focus on what they do best. Speaking.
For these speakers, if their audience want to know more they will talk to you, chat with you, email you after the lecture and ask for a reading list. For these speakers engagement is key, personality is always present and the message being delivered is always personal. Their audiences’ attention shouldn’t have to be split between screen and speaker – the screen adds no value.
Those who should stick to Powerpoint are the conference speakers and organisers that pride themselves on the size of their audiences, the ones that need a screen so that ‘those at the back can see’ and the mid-level executives that will get brownie points from their bosses for a presentation with great slide transitions, charts and animations.
I will let you decide which of these two clear groups are the ones that will achieve great things, but I know which speakers I would rather be listening to.
But what replaces Powerpoint?
The safety net that is the perfectly prepared Powerpoint is not an easy item to discard and those who do will instinctively be looking for a new ‘something’ to hide behind. What replaces Powerpoint?
Here’s some ideas (a few of which I will aim to focus on in more detail in later posts):
Repetition and a clear structure for your speech – reduces the need to have ‘signpost’ items on a screen behind you so that your audience doesn’t forget what you are talking about.
Objects – designed to reference key points in your speech, act as a visual stimulus and bring originality to your presentation style.
Hand drawing – draw that chart or write those statistics as you speak, emphasising their importance and helping your audience to visualise you constructing your argument.
Being concise – if you are clearly and accurately conveying your message, then the facts and figures don’t always need to be six foot tall behind you. You can deliver the key facts from this year’s financial audit and then hand out the copies of the report. If you have delivered your speech well, then your audience will be able to remember what you have said and apply it to the report in hand at a later date.
So what does it all mean?
There will always be speakers that need Powerpoint. There will always be those too scared to try something new and deliver their message in a new way.
However, at the same time, there will soon be a new breed of speaker. The speaker that remembers that Churchill fought off Hitler without the use of a slide deck, those that realise that to get your message across you need to be unique and these people will be those that are looking beyond Powerpoint.
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