When Not To Use Powerpoint

by Stephen Boyd | January 31, 2006

The use of PowerPoint has become an important part of many of our presentations. But there are times when PowerPoint is best omitted from a presentation. The purpose of this article is to suggest times when you are better off to present without PowerPoint.

One situation is when you are giving a motivational talk. The purpose of most motivational presentations is to influence the audience to do something that they already know they should be doing. When little new information is provided, which is the case in many of these kinds of talks, there is little need to use slides. In fact, when persuading, using a slide may interfere with the momentum you have established as you developed a connection with the audience.

For example, if you are motivating a group to sell more, they usually know the product and the methods of selling. Your goal is to make them want to sell more. Thus slides of explanations, graphs, charts, lists, pictures, and definitions are not needed. It may be best simply to talk 20 minutes to remind them by your content and delivery to do what they are supposed to be doing already.

Another time when it is best not to use PowerPoint is if you have not had an opportunity for a dress rehearsal with the presentation. Because of so many possible things that can go wrong, delivering the presentation without seeing what the slides look like in the actual speaking situation is risky. If you are not able to practice using the slides with the presentation which the slides are reinforcing, you may decide not to use the visuals at all.

In addition, a PowerPoint program adds time to your presentation. It's hard to determine how long your presentation will take if you have not practiced using the slides as you speak. The benefits of the slides might be outweighed by the challenges you face when problems arise during the unrehearsed presentation.

Consider not using PowerPoint if you don't have as much time for your presentation as you originally thought. PowerPoint takes more time and it is harder to cut back on time when you are eliminating slides as you speak. Shortening your presentation is much easier when slides are not involved.

Finally, when it is not easy for everyone in the room to see the slides, you may choose to avoid them altogether. The people who can see easily, of course, will not have a problem. But the ones who cannot see may get frustrated and resist your entire message. Having a part of your audience unhappy is not a challenge you want to face!

This is not an article condemning PowerPoint, which can be a great asset to your presentation when used appropriately. Simply consider these factors when deciding whether or not PowerPoint is appropriate for each particular presentation.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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