Monday, 18 July 2011

It's Powerpoint Users who need a bashing, not Powerpoint itself!

Powerpoint has been coming in for another bashing this week, mainly due to a Swiss presentation skills coach who has gone so far as to form an 'Anti-Powerpoint Party'(A-PP).  In support of his 'international movement' he hits us with the sort of big percentages and huge revenue loss estimates that I used to calculate on behalf of clients back in my PR days.  And when you have absorbed all that, you are presented with the opportunity to buy a book on the subject.  Let me get my own plug out of the way right now - my book 'Presentation Magic' has just been published internationally by Marshall Cavendish and it has plenty to say about Powerpoint, both bad and....good.

Actually, as a PR stunt the A-PP is quite fun and the media certainly seem to be giving it due attention.  What saddens me a bit is that, like anyone who whinges about Powerpoint, it continues to miss the, er... point.  Just as alcohol abuse should be the focus of that particular problem rather than alcohol itself, it is the mis-users of Powerpoint who are the problem in the business presentation arena rather than Powerpoint itself.

At this stage I could go into all kinds of details from my coaching about how to achieve 'Powerful Powerpoint' - Powerpoint that actually supports you as a presenter, rather than potentially undermining you.  I could talk about the Rule of Five, creating Single Points of Focus, the B and W buttons, thickness of line and much else besides.  I could also go into a range of classic examples where non-Powerpoint presentations won the day, but I won't.  

Instead, I offer this one simple tip, which is actually much more than a mere tip. I believe this should be the guiding principle for whether or not to use Powerpoint, how much to use it and where to use it.  Construct your presentation - thinking what you want to say to this specific audience - without going anywhere near a computer.  Then have a run through, again without any kind of technology or even aids.  The first thing you will find is that you can manage without what for too long has probably been a crutch; what's more, you may well find that it flows more freely and naturally.  Importantly, the process will also help to identify where aids of some sort would actually be helpful - elements where some visuals would add clarity, communicate a lot of information quickly or help to punctuate your talk.  Then you simply need to decide what sort of aids would best provide that support and Powerpoint may well be the answer.

The crucial thing is that anything you put on a screen should only be to support what you as a human being are communicating to other human beings. Whatever you do, don't let Powerpoint drive you - you are the show; it should have a supporting role at most.

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