Who’d have thought that a topic as mundane as, “I dislike PowerPoint presentations. They are impersonal and only help those who have difficulty speaking in public. Am I wrong on this? Must PowerPoint be the only way and light?” on LinkedIn’s PR & Communications Professionals forum would garner 129 comments!
Many people mention the obvious: speakers who use PowerPoint slides as a crutch, slides that have too much text, presentations that overshadow the presenter, etc. However, that’s not the fault of the tool, it’s the fault of the presenter.
Very, very few people now are good presenters. Partially, this is because companies no longer offer the same level of training. When I worked for a PR agency (many years ago), presentation training was standard. We learned to be comfortable in front of audiences of any size, how to make eye contact and engage the people we were speaking to, rather than at.
Our clients hired us to train their staff before they presented at trade shows and conferences. We also designed their slides (real slides, not PowerPoint) so that they were clear and entertaining. We listened to our clients present, told them what we heard (versus what they thought they said) and helped them present information so that people could listen to it and absorb their message.
The results were more polished than many of the presentations I see today. They weren’t thrown together on the plane to the conference; instead they were designed to complement and enhance the subject. Many times now when I see people present, I doubt that they have ever practiced it. There’s a world of difference between the information that people can absorb when they read it versus when they hear it. When you don’t practice a speech or a presentation you risk losing your audience because they can’t follow you.
PowerPoint has made it too easy to cheat, too easy to cram too many words onto a slide, and too easy for the presenter to hide behind the slides.
In the end, it comes down to the presenter. Presenting to an audience is an art. But too often it’s become an afterthought.