When I was in college I had to take a public speaking class. In the class we were allowed to use 4” x 6” index cards to write notes on that would help us with our presentations. By capturing some key points on the index cards we were able to organize our thoughts, yet stay focused on the audience. Fast forward 20 years and the index card has been replaced with something much more intrusive and less effective – PowerPoint.
In the business world it seems that almost every opportunity where people meet you will see the dreaded PowerPoint deck. We have all had the experience of sitting through presentations were the presenter had far too many slides, slides that could not be read because they had detailed graphs and charts, or slides that were there just because the presenter thought they looked cool, yet added little value. So we have to ask ourselves, since we have all experienced this, why does it continue to happed? I believe that for the most part the problem lies with how people use PowerPoint. Rather than using PowerPoint as a tool to help a presenter connect with the audience and convey a message, many presenters use PowerPoint as a way to organize their thoughts and actually be the message. In this respect PowerPoint has become the modern day version of the 4” x6” index card; a queue card so to speak. It explains why some people just can’t hold a meeting without a PowerPoint deck, because without it, they wouldn’t know what to say. When presenters use PowerPoint as a queue card the presenter ends up focusing on the slides and not the message and the audience. When I look back on some of the most memorable presentations I have seen, I don’t think of how great the PowerPoint slides were; I think of the person, their personality, how they connected with the audience, the questions they asked, and the value of the information they presented. In fact, some of the best sales calls I have ever been on were those that did not use PowerPoint at all.
Don’t get me wrong, when used correctly PowerPoint can be a very effective communication tool, and in many cases (webinars for example), a PowerPoint deck is a “must have.” But in today’s world it is largely overused and often ineffective.
So what’s your take on PowerPoint as a communication tool? Please share your comments.