Why not go naked? Drop your PowerPoint pants? Are you mad?

February 12, 2012

in Fit Focus Flair, PowerPoint, Prezi

I get a bit frustrated with the ‘PowerPoint is evil’ brigade. They’re out in force on the internet, and they have their right to a point of view. I just think they’re wrong. PowerPoint, Prezi, Articulate or whatever, are evil or good in precise proportion to the person using them.

The ‘go naked’ idea seems to be gaining popularity though, and if you want to go naked, go ahead. Just remember that you’d better be very impressive ‘sans pants’ in every way, because 10,000 years of storytelling suggests that the audience prefers pictures, so long as they can see them and they support the story.

In earlier posts we talked about the skills involved in designing effective PowerPoint presentations, and discussed how the answer to “What are the presentation skills I need” is that we must understand the important role of the visual elements of your presentation.  Those visuals include-

  1. You the speaker, your appearance and the setting for the speech.
  2. Your visual aids, whatever they are.

It’s worth remembering that all the visual bits tend to dominate the message that the audience receives and there’s a subtle difference to presenting with or without pictures that’s worth exploring.

Without visuals, the audience will listen to your words and message intently and find the emphasis in the vocal delivery. Imagine the person who starts his speech with the words- ‘This session is about finding new solutions for the problems that face us today…’ and in the background there’s the same old PowerPoint slide that you’ve seen before with a quote from some Roman General you’ve never heard of, and a picture of a duck hitting itself in the face with a hammer.

Confused? Of course you are, because a punchy first line about hope and creativity has been contradicted by a cliched piece of clipart and a hackneyed, bullet pointed slide.

So if visuals really don’t help the speaker, why not get rid altogether?  That’s what the ‘presentation nudists’ suggest. You could, of course, do just that. It’s always an option, and sometimes the right option, but not usually. Because when the visual and the verbal work together you can make a real impression, even with the most complex subjects. That’s why art, film, illustration and drama is so popular, naturally. So where does that leave us? With 2 approaches to presentations, we should remember that-

  1. Without any visual element other than the speaker, the audience will listen to the words and watch the speaker intently for emphasis and importance. So you’d better be really good.
  2. With visuals the audience will look for the message first in the visuals and emphasis in the vocal ‘commentary’. They will notice inconsistencies at very subtle levels of detail. And if you can pull that off it’ll always be better than option 1.

I choose to work with a visual element almost every time that I speak, because the ‘upside’ of getting it right, is much more appealing than that of chat alone, so I like to think of the pictures and PowerPoint stuff that I show as emphatic tools rather than the story itself. I try to make sure that the words and the pictures work in harmony.

Poor visuals, that contradict my spoken message mean I have to work harder to connect with the audience, and that they listen in spite of, rather than because of the messages that their eyes receive. So even though I’m pretty confident naked, I’m capable of so much more with my clothes on.

For more on the visual and verbal dexterity see here, and read Beyond Bullet Points.  Buy it here.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey

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