A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant


It drives me crazy.

People refer to a set of PowerPoint slides as “a presentation.”  “Can you send me your presentation?” people will ask.

Are they crazy?!

A presentation is – you know – a person presenting a speech, a talk…, standing up or sitting down and opening his/her mouth and speaking.  You know – presenting!

PowerPoint slides projected on a screen are PRESENTATION AIDS!  They-are-not-the-presentation!

I teach Introduction to Speech Communication.  I refuse to teach PowerPoint in the “introduction” class.  Only if they “beg” me do I teach about PowerPoint.  And I teach my students this – control the eye contact of the audience, and never define the PowerPoint slides as the presentation – they are PRESENTATION AIDS! Why?   Because, after you have thoroughly researched, fully prepared, you have to emphasize the voice, facial expressions, tone, — you know, YOU!

Dr. King in Washington - not one single PowerPoint slide

Quick, what do the following “presenters,”  John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan, Ronald Reagan, have in common?  They never used PowerPoint in their “presentations.”

THEY DELIVERED THEIR PRESENTATIONS! You know, their voice, their words, their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their gestures – these made up their presentations.  No, they could not e-mail their presentations to anyone.  They could not send anyone their presentations.  They had to show up and deliver their presentations.

Yes, their presentations show up on youtube.  But even that is not the same.  It captures some of what happened – but not all.  I’ve heard a few great presentations in person.  I watched Bill Clinton at his best in a huge crowd in Fort Worth, Texas in 1996.  I stood on the second row.  Every thing he did – eye contact, emotion, personality – it was an education!  And not one PowerPoint slide during the entire presentation!

Now, I’m not a complete idiot.  (well – I might be – but that’s another discussion).  Of course, well-made presentation aids can be very effective.  But take a look at any of the presentations at the great TED site.  Not once do they just put up the slides.  The slides are visual AIDS.  On the TED site, they upload the speaking, by the persons presenting, to capture as much of each presentation as possible.

I went to Mickey Mantle’s funeral here in Dallas (it was open to the public).  Delivering the main address was Bob Costas.  It was a masterpiece – I mean, a real masterpiece.  It may have been the best presentation I ever heard.  It was his voice, his face, his gestures.  Not one PowerPoint slide!

He delivered his presentation.  No, he cannot e-mail it to you!

Okay – rant finished.

6 thoughts on “A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant

  1. I so happy to read this article I was feeling as if they are my words this is what exactly i say and do great hats off to u sir

  2. The issue with using PPT. in our presentations hinges on the idea that we Must Use PPT to lead our presentations. – Instead of (the implied) letting it help our talks.

    Think in a VISUAL-THINKER’s mindset. Which concept would impact you, as an audience member more? Saying “the weather was cold that day” or a picture of a seal in the frozen Arctic ocean on a ice cap in a -230 degree windstorm?

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