Skillset New Zealand Blog

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Enough audience abuse. Enough of making audiences feel as if the life force is draining out of them.

Should we ban PowerPoint?

For 20 years, the potentially brilliant PowerPoint has been so absymally used that our connection with audiences has plummeted. The standard of presentations has plummeted. Wall-to-wall PowerPoint kills persuasion, destroys subtlety and straight-jackets discussion. Even worse, if the audience is sceptical or anxious and they sense that the presenter is hiding behind the PowerPoint, they get angry and think he/she is not fronting up to me.

Amazon and LinkedIn banned it from meetings. The late Steve Jobs of Apple banned it. So did the U.S. Joint forces Commander James N Mattis, who also said, "PowerPoint makes us stupid." An international physics conference banned it and made the scientists use flip charts instead.

But PowerPoint is too useful to ban outright. Instead, we need a simple but radical change to the way we use it.

PowerPoint: the revolution is here, join us!

Prepare so you can be directly in front of the audience most of the time. It means accepting that your screen PowerPoint should not contain your entire presentation (though a hand-out might). It means accepting that word-filled slides have no impact. And it means accepting that letting the screen prompt you, and then reading out every word, intensely annoys your audience. So, yes, that may take old-fashioned speech prompts on paper - with slide numbers attached here and there where directly relevant.

Step aside from front-of-audience now and then to show and talk about a supporting slide (pictorial), returning the screen to black the moment the slide is not immediately and directly relevant. (How to go to black? Look at tip 10 below.)

Go back in front of the audience and resume direct engagement.

Simple, but not easy. It takes courage to 'front up' to an audience. And it takes practice; in my workshops most participants need to physically go through the motions of using, then losing, PowerPoint just so they can stand openly in front of people and engage them.

The revolution is upon us.

Interested in living dangerously and taking part?

These links to my PowerPoint blog posts might help:

PowerPoint tip 1 – the answer lies in the feet

PowerPoint tip 2 – don't shout!

PowerPoint tip 3 - use the 'B' button

PowerPoint tip 4 - jump directly to the slide you want

PowerPoint tip 5 - headline your words

PowerPoint tip 6 - be silent on each change

PowerPoint tip 7 - should the background be dark or light?

PowerPoint tip 8 - make PowerPoint your servant, not your master

PowerPoint tip 9 - the bad news about your title slide

PowerPoint tip 10 - insert a black slide

Here's a little bonus: people will come up to you afterwards and say, "Hey, your PowerPoint was great. It didn't annoy me. What are you doing?"


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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