Creative Leadership

Why Inexperienced Speakers Should Avoid Using Powerpoint

PowerPoint (and the Mac version “Keynote”) can be powerful presentation tools. Visuals can add so much to teaching, plus, some research indicates that when the text of a speaker’s major points are shown onscreen, the audience retains up to 3 times more. However, I always caution inexperienced speakers to avoid presentation software at all costs. Here’s why:

Less experienced speakers spend too much time finding the right photos, and too little time actually practicing the speech. From my own experience I can get stuck in a “photo vortex” and suddenly realize that most of the day is blown searching. Finding the right photo is tedious work – because if it’s not right, it can undercut the impact of your presentation.  And there’s so much more to a memorable speaker.

As a result, here’s my advice:  Speakers, stop worrying about presentation software, and instead, practice, practice, practice.

Try to create the right rehearsal environment – get a podium, place your notes in front of you, and have the proper space to move around. Then literally go over your talk word for word, and do it multiple times.

I probably conducted more than 100 workshops, keynotes, and other lectures before I even started using Keynote. As a result, I learned the principles of speaking first. Now, Keynote is an “add-on” and not a crutch.

With very few exceptions, if your speech won’t be effective without a computer presentation, then it won’t be effective, period.

Until you’re good enough to be comfortable in every situation, including the ability to overcome any technical screw up, I suggest you avoid presentation software, and instead, invest your time practicing to become an amazing speaker.

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  1. This is a great perspective, Phil. When you spoke in Naples, there was projector trouble after the intermission. The second part of your presentation was just as engaging as the first half, even without the graphics. Now whenever I present Live Announcements at our church, I remember that session so I’m sure if there’s a technical glitch, the announcements will still get communicated.

  2. Let’s not forget two more scenarios:

    – A person that puts WAY too much text on a page, haphazardly sized and formatted.
    – A person that reads every single page of the presentation, making the audience wonder why they even attended.

  3. This is great advice. Each year, I backstage manage at an annual TEDx conference and it seems those presenters who have the least speaking experience use the most slides. And that’s where the problem lies… technical glitches, multiple operation errors with the remote and so on become distractions. The speaker’s message is momentarily lost due to the visual issue at hand. Some speakers have literally forgotten their remaining speech because they depended entirely on their visual presentation to advance their message.

    You’re right Phil, memorizing and rehearsing your speech can’t be emphasized enough. Nothing else will save you when all props are knocked out from under you.

  4. I would add if your power point graphics are too busy, too complicated, too small, etc, they detract from your message. If PowerPoint is not used well, don’t use it.

  5. Great line… “if your speech won’t be effective without a computer presentation, then it won’t be effective, period.” That being said, with much practice + the right tools, a good presentation can become great. A good word could also turn into a lasting experience. I would love to talk to you more about this topic… after hearing about the concept of an elevator pitch from you at Istoria last year, I was definitely impacted to wrestle with this idea of presentation. Let me know if your led to discuss this further offline?
    Thanks for this article.

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