Join the Anti Power Point Party today

18 July 2011 By Northern Lights

Join the Anti Power Point Party today image

FruitInspired by Lucy Kellaway’s article in the Financial Times, I have just joined the Anti PowerPoint Party.

We have refused to do Powerpoints for years – but are often made to feel this could be a disadvantage when pitching for new work.  ‘Please send your Powerpoint by 4pm the night before your presentation’ or ‘let us know what AV equipment you will need’.  When you say you don’t need anything there is often a pause – and you can hear their thought bubble ‘are they dinosaurs?’.

Why do we refuse to do Powerpoints?  These are our reasons, but you will see we agree strongly with much of what Lucy is saying

1.       Powerpoint makes you lazy

Presenting without a Powerpoint is hard work.  You have to think about what are the key messages you want to get over, and how will you bring these to life.

When we pitched to Leeds University Faculty of Medicine and Health, we talked about how we would bring their research to life.  We took with us a platter of beautifully prepared healthy fruit to pass around while we talked about the research they had done on health and how we would tie into healthy media themes.  We also took a teeth whitening kit – and then talked about the Leeds Dental Institute being the UK’s number one dentist school and positioning them as commentators on issues such as ‘are whitening kits dangerous for your teeth?’

The panel laughed and were engaged.  And we won the pitch.

2.       Powerpoint stops you engaging with your audience

The biggest danger with Powerpoint is that you concentrate on the screen and your notes – not your audience.

When you are presenting, you need to watch the body language of your audience.  You can quickly see if people are agreeing with you (nodding heads), resistant to your suggestions (folded arms), bored (playing on iphone or asleep) or not understanding (a questioning look, head on one side).  A child could recognise these signs – but they will be missed if you are fiddling around with clickers and looking at your screen.

When you know what your audience is thinking, you can skip bits that aren’t appealing, expand elements or ask questions if you don’t think your audience is with you – and know who you need to win around when it comes to discussion after a presentation.

3.       Powerpoint requires technology which requires … working kit

How many times have you seen presenters spend the first five or ten minutes trying to get a laptop to connect or the screen to come alive?

This distracts and irritates the audience, unnerves the presenter and you either over-run as a result or lose half the content – which you may or may not have paid to hear.

4.       No Powerpoint, no fear

As Lucy Kellaway says, it is a heck of a lot more challenging to present without Powerpoint.  Yes Powerpoint is a crutch, but if you need that crutch you need some lessons in presenting.

You need to focus on researching your audience, a few jokes to engage with and warm them up and get your presentation down to its pithy essence.  Not spend hours researching images and writing out your talk in lengthy bullet points.

Hooray to the Anti PowerPoint Party – we will spread the message in the UK.

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Written by Northern Lights

4 Comments

  • Very interesting Victoria! The fact that a Powerpoint presentation represents professionalism is a cliché that we should be allowed to break away from.
    The point of a presentation is to grab the attention of your audience and to engage them. So you can see the appeal Powerpoint had when it was first introduced, but surely we should innovate and use more effective methods?
    However I do believe that Powerpoint can still be used to highlight key points, especially with complicated matters. Would you never consider using it?

  • Thanks Ahmed
    I think you are right – and being completely truthful I have occasionally used a Powerpoint of just images to liven up guest lectures to students.

    Tim Harford wrote a response in the FT a week later and disagreed with Lucy, making the same point!
    Point well made!

  • Excellent blog to which I’m sure we can all relate – death by Powerpoint should be avoided at all costs!

    Ahmed’s point about innovation is an interesting one. The evolution of lengthy and dull Powerpoint presentations into more creative, fast-paced formats such as Pecha Kutcha (20 slides for 20 seconds each) has certainly helped. Keeping the presenter on their toes, with only six minutes to present all key points, makes for a much more exciting audience experience.

    And the ‘business’ function of Powerpoint has been turned on its head more recently by the Bettakultcha nights in Yorkshire, with their strict ‘no pitches’ rule. The rapid and increasing success these nights have enjoyed over the past year is most certainly down to the variety, creativity and humour of the presenters, and the fact that people go to socialise, and not be ‘sold to’.

    This comes back to Victoria’s first point: it’s all about engagement. Successfully combine any form of presenting information with putting a smile on your audience’s face, and you’re on to a winner.

  • Hi all. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of public speaking and find that telling a story is the best way to engage your audience. I try to keep PowerPoint to a minimum (it also helps overcome performance anxiety as you’re not reliant on visuals if technology fails). One of the best TED talks I’ve seen is by Brené Brown: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html. I’ve taken her message about ‘wholeheartedness’ to heart (excuse the pun) and in my writing have also attempted to give a more personal touch to articles. Also this – ‘lean into the discomfort’. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

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