At a restaurant, do you ask for a cola or a Coke?
After showering, do you reach for a cotton swab or a Q-tip*?
When you tell someone to look up something on the Internet do you say, “Conduct a web search,” or “Google it”?
Do you have parents or grandparents who reach for Kleenex instead of tissues?
Perhaps you’re from the generation that made Xeroxes instead of copies.
Most of us recognize the marketing genius of companies that so expertly align their brands with a product that the two become synonymous.
Whether intentional or not, Microsoft is one of those brands. For better or worse, I will argue the latter, MS PowerPoint has become synonymous with presentation.
I mean no disrespect to Microsoft and no disrespect to the millions who use it. I draw the line, however, with the synonymy that has become accepted practice in business and academia.
PowerPoint is an effective visual aid for public presentations but it is no substitute for the presenter.
When conducting public speaking workshops, I often have to re-educate participants as to the definition of a presentation. Because of excellent marketing and subsequent habitual usage, many don’t even think about addressing an audience without first putting together a PowerPoint. In fact, many rely on PowerPoint as a means of deflecting jitters, keeping organized, or saving prep and practice time. The result can be disastrous for unskilled presenters.
Public Speaking Rule #1: You are the presentation! Your PowerPoint or any audio-visual aid is just that, an aid. Your visual aids should be gathered and put together AFTER you’ve researched, outlined, and crafted your presentation.
You wouldn’t ice a cake before baking it, would you? (I can bring food into any conversation!)
At best, preparing your PowerPoint prior to researching and outlining your speech will likely leave you with unnecessary slides. At worst, you’ll have a very boring presentation.
You might be thinking, “I don’t care if I’m boring as long as I can get through the presentation and the audience has something other than me to focus on.” I’ve heard such comments from college students and from professionals. Don’t concentrate on getting through your presentation. Concentrate on getting TO it.
Think about the types of presentations you enjoy attending. Do you like to read or be read to, or do you prefer an engaging speaker?
I realize most of us aren’t born public speakers but I also have proof that with a little coaching 99% of us can become better public speakers. In addition to my personal experience, I’ve had the honor of helping hundreds of professionals and students through my classes and workshops.
So, why settle for mediocrity, especially if a promotion or a big-ticket deal is at stake?
When you have the opportunity to address a live audience, embrace it! Don’t waste your audience’s time. They can view a PowerPoint from the comfort and convenience of their laptops, tablets, or phones.
For tips on creating effective PowerPoint slides, please consider the wisdom of comedian Don MacMillan: “Life and Death After PowerPoint.”
For more Public Speaking tips, contact me directly.
*Here’s a random fact for the water cooler: Invented in 1920 by Leo Gerstenzang, Q-tips were first called Baby Gays.