What is Powerpoint for YOU?

What is powerpoint for YOU? At first glance, you might think this is a strange question Surely everyone has heard of, and knows what it is. You may be right, but then again...... read on.

Microsoft say it is "software that lets you create materials that can be presented using a projector. Using this material to announce a report or proposal is called a presentation". (Slightly patronising tone there Microsoft)

Here are some other online answers to the question.

A graphical approach to presentations in the form of slide shows that accompany the oral delivery of the topic. This program is widely used in business and classrooms and is an effective tool when used for training purposes.

The program you use for making a presentation. 

A complete presentation graphics package. It gives you everything you need to produce a professional-looking presentation.

Let me return to my question and ask what is powerpoint for YOU?  You see, it may well be a great tool that can assist presenters to communicate their ideas and passions with power and authority. It may help them connect with, engage and inspire their audience. Yet it has also caused the phrase 'death by powerpoint' to become widely known and feared.

In my experience, having witnessed considerable numbers of business presentations in my work, there are two typical answers to the question, and these answers have gone a long way to making 'death by power point' common business parlance.

Typical Answer 1:
It's my autocue.

This means I have typically prepared my presentation using this software and the vast majority of my slides are designed to remind me what comes next. Many of my slides contain far too much text and probably consist of mostly bullet points. The slides offer very little value to my audience in supporting my words and helping them get my key messages. They do however give me some comfort that I will remember what I intended to say, and worst case, I can simply read the slides to my audience and know I will have delivered my message.

Typical Answer 2:
It's my handout generator.

I know that my audience will ask for a copy of my slides at the end of my presentation. I have therefore crammed as much detail as possible into the presentation to ensure value for my audience. This has meant I have had to use very small fonts in places, and have a lot more slides than I expected, but I have effectively killed two birds (and probably one presentation) with one stone.

Unusual answer:
I use powerpoint to engage my audience
and support my key points

It's good software and a useful tool if used well. Its purpose is to support what you are saying and make it easier for your audience to relate to, understand and remember your key messages.

If you want to remember your presentation content, use notes. Your audience doesn't expect you to have memorised every word.

If you want to provide handout material, design this separately. You can use powerpoint for this if you wish, but keep the slides separate to those you plan to actually present.

Who knows, maybe one day we can banish 'death by power point' from our vocabulary.

Finally, here's a funny video that highlights some key powerpoint traps we all fall into from time to time.

Richard Lock: International trainer, speaker,and coach helping businesses and individuals learn the secrets of effective communication.

To find out more about workshops, self study options, 'live online' virtual classroom sessions , personal coaching or other blended learning approaches please get in touch.

See also:

RHL Associates for management development