When NOT to Use PowerPoint
There are times — especially for leaders — when using PowerPoint in a speech makes little sense and may even be counterproductive.
Here are seven times when it’s better NOT to use PowerPoint:
1. When You Want to Project a Sense of Leadership
Using PowerPoint™ divides the audience’s attention, forcing them to choose between looking at you or at the screen.
Using PowerPoint™ cues the audience to think of you as an instructor or a trainer — as someone whose primary goal is to convey information.
When you want to command people’s full attention and to make them think of you as a leader, avoid using PowerPoint.
2. When You Want to Engage your Audience’s Emotions and Imaginations
PowerPoint™ is best at displaying information, which appeals to people’s rational minds.
But there are times when you want to motivate people to take action by tapping into their imaginations and emotions. Think of a coach giving a halftime pep talk, of a general preparing troops for battle, or of a manager trying to rally a department behind a new project.
When you want to stir people to action, avoid using PowerPoint™.
3. When You Want (Primarily) to Connect with Your Audience
In some speeches your primary intent is to build a relationship with your audience. Think of a leader introducing herself and her vision to an organization or of a candidate addressing a political rally.
You want to look your audience in the eye and to say, in effect: “This is me. This is what I value. This is what I want of you.”
When you want to build a strong relationship with your audience, avoid using PowerPoint™.
4. When You Want (Primarily) to Engage Your Audience’s Participation
Once you start a PowerPoint™ presentation, your audience knows that you are planning to cover a predetermined amount of material. You have already set the content, scope, direction, and sequence of your presentation. They know their part is to sit back and observe.
There are times when you want your audience to be actively involved in creating the presentation with you. Think of a leader who’s trying to build consensus around a group project. You want to solicit their ideas and to evoke their creativity, even if doing so means that you aren’t “in control” of what happens.
When you want your audience to participate actively in your presentation, avoid using PowerPoint™.
5. When You Have Limited Preparation Time
Designing an attractive PowerPoint™ presentation takes time.
Sometimes you’re caught last minute with only a short time to pull together a presentation. You need to use what time you have to analyze your audience, strategize your presentation, and sketch out a rough outline.
When you don’t have time to create great looking slides, avoid using PowerPoint™.
6. When You Have Limited Time to Deliver Your Presentation
Booting up your computer, loading PowerPoint™, opening your file, connecting the projector, and troubleshooting the inevitable problems can take a lot of time.
When you’re giving a brief talk and you don’t want to spend more time setting up than speaking, avoid using PowerPoint™.
7. When Your Audience Suffers From PowerPoint Fatigue
The novelty of PowerPoint™ has worn off. People have been subjected to too many mediocre PowerPoint™ presentations. Slide after slide of bullet points. Cheesy graphics. Annoying special effects.
When your audience is bored by all things PowerPoint™, avoid using it.
Use PowerPoint™ when — and only when — it make sense, when it will contribute to the impact of your presentation.
# # #
See also 10 Tips for Using Visual Aids.
Chris Witt is an executive speech coach who works with executives and business leaders who want to improve their presentation skills. Witt Communications, based in San Diego, offers speeches and programs to help executives speak more effectively.
For more information about how you might benefit, contact us.