Before PowerPoint was PowerPoint it was called Presenter and available only on a Mac. The name changed in 1987 and soon after the software was acquired by some little outfit named Microsoft.
Considering how the product is used today they should have kept the original name. Today way too many people try to let the software do the presenting for them.
That was never the intent of the developers. Presenter and later, PowerPoint was designed as a visual aid. The key word there being “aid.” It was supposed to help a person make a better presentation; it was never intended to be the presentation.
Too many speakers today forget the fact that their most important and impactful visual aid is themselves. What they say, and especially how they say it, should easily outperform even the most stunning PowerPoint slide.
I know speaking if front of a group can be a scary thing to do. I also know that some presenters use PowerPoint as a crutch to lean on. Others use it as a shield to hide behind. Many speakers use slides as their presentation notes.
None of those were the intended purpose of the original software.
The original purpose was to have a tool to quickly develop slides that could be efficiently changed as data, statistics and other information changed. The slides could be used to show graphics and photos to make concepts simpler to understand than mere words ever could.
But even the best graphics cannot compare with the eye-to-eye impact even just a competent speaker can have when at center stage. No disembodied voice from the shadows will ever come close to matching a highly skilled presenter adapt at holding an audience’s attention.
Slides have become so easy to prepare and so embedded in the average presentation that most people don’t invest the time and hard work required to think through what they want to say. Many people actually create their slides first and then determine what they want to say.
That’s why it’s common to see a speaker settle for a bunch of wordy slides. They are loaded with statistics most people don’t care about and lots of “cool” motion and even a few funny noises.
If you want to be a better speaker then you have to do more than read from the screen. You need to remember that with visuals less is more. You’ll need to make some tough decisions to weed out any slide that doesn’t add clarity to your message. Never add a slide that takes the spotlight off of you.
Odds are, you have invested a ton of time in developing your own competence on your subject. Never let that competence be overshadowed by a slide deck. Your physical presence, and how you say what you say will ultimately be what you’re judged on.
If you don’t believe that then let me ask you… have you ever said of a presentation, “well, the presentation and presenter were bad but the slides were awesome?”
Yeah, I’ve never said that either. Let your slides be your helper. Let them help you clarify difficult concepts and complicated ideas. But never never let them be your entire presentation.
Oh, and one more thing…if the first words out of your mouth when a slides pop up are “I know this is an eye chart but….” then get rid of the slide completely.