To PPT or not to PPT

Over the last few months, I’ve done a number of presentations and I’m asked the same question: “Will you have a PowerPoint to present?” My answer (so far) is always, “yes.” But, it was a discussion with my wife about a PowerPoint presentation that really got me thinking.

She asked after my most recent talk, “What if you DID NOT have one?” I shuddered and thought, “I can’t just NOT have one. What would I refer to?” But, she made a great point: Do we really need to use PowerPoint during a talk and is it always effective? So, I was officially conflicted.

I decided to reach out to trusted colleague Deirdre Breakenridge; she’s done a few presentations (understatement). I wanted to get her opinion on which way to go. Deirdre stressed the importance of knowing the audience and to have the resources prepared that will get their attention.

“When I visit colleges and meet with groups of students, I usually don’t use PowerPoint,” she said. Instead, the discussion is interactive with questions about them, their interests and their needs. “I find the PowerPoint in the classroom setting can be distracting. There are instances, however, where I’ve embedded videos in a PPT during a classroom presentation, which are used to ignite passionate discussions.” But, Deirdre stays away from the typical PPT with bulleted information.
With larger groups such as professional associations and training session with businesses, the PowerPoint can be very helpful. “Once again, it’s important for me to use visuals that I can speak to, rather than a lot of bulleted information,” Deirdre said. “Sometimes large, colorful visuals or charts specifically calling out numbers are a great way to get attention and to get a point across.” Deirdre made certain to stress that PowerPoint should not be the sole discussion, but rather a helpful reference (or jumping of point) to aid the speaker to deliver more compelling information.
I think Deirdre’s points are very valid, especially when it comes to understanding your audience. One of the things I’ve done is prior to any talk is to chat with the head of the group. What are the people like? What information are you looking to learn more about? Is it a big room or more intimate setting? All these things are important.
Let me know your thoughts on PowerPoint and how you use it or don’t.
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Posted on May 15, 2012, in Hot Topic, Marketing, Public Relations, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good points, Jason (no pun intended ;)). I struggled with this recently when I was invited to speak at a regional PRSSA conference. Debating over whether to use PowerPoint or an alternative such as Prezi or to ditch the overhead altogether. Ultimately, I decided to go ahead with PowerPoint but I changed up my approach a bit. I did use bulleted points but essentially one or two word bullets, when my actual commentary was several sentences, and in many cases included a question for discussion. I also inserted humorous visuals to go along with the bullets as well as a video link that sparked discussion after viewing.

    Everyone seemed to really enjoy the presentation(s) and participated in the discussions, so I think I found the magic mix–at least for this audience!

    • Thanks for your input, Tressa! I think as Deirdre said in her quote, you have to know your audience. I’m thinking with the PRSSA conference, you’d want to use PPT. And it certainly seemed like it was very effective.

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