Why not to hand out your slides before your presentation

 In Message creation

Microsoft has done a superb job of marketing PowerPoint. So much so that whenever a person thinks of delivering a presentation they automatically think they must use PowerPoint. This is a falsehood. PowerPoint slides are not obligatory for a presentation.

However, they can support a person’s spoken delivery, and are best used for things other than words. For example, for images and for clear diagrammes, charts, graphs, and for short video clips (ie. up to 40 seconds).

Below is an incisive quotation on slide usage from angel investor, David Rose, as quoted on p. 66 in the book, Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds (New Riders, 2008).

“Never, ever hand out copies of your slides, and certainly not before your presentation. That is the kiss of death. By definition, since slides are “speaker support” material, they are there in support of this speaker . . . YOU. As such, they should be completely incapable of standing by themselves, and are thus useless to give to your audience, where they will simply be guaranteed to be a distraction. The flip slide of this is that if the slides can stand by themselves, why the heck are you up there in front of them?”

While I agree with what Rose says, there may be times when you give the audience a copy of your PowerPoint slide. For example, you might give a handout of a flow chart to the audience. When you present and comment on the chart as it is displayed on the screen it can be helpful for the audience to have a copy to write on.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post: The next time you’re planning a sales presentation or leading a meeting:

a. Be clear on your key messages that you want the audience to retain and/or act upon.

b. Resist the urge to include text slides.

c. Consider what images, graphs, video clips to use that will drive home your key message.

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