Why You Should Never Give a PowerPoint Presentation

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on July 15, 2013 – 12:03 AM

You should never give a PowerPoint presentation.


I’m not saying you can never use PowerPoint again. You can. PowerPoint isn’t an inherently evil tool designed to put your audiences to sleep. Used correctly, it can make your spoken points more memorable and elicit a visceral reaction from your audience.

So why am I writing that you should never give a PowerPoint presentation again? Because there’s no such thing as a “PowerPoint presentation.”

PowerPoint Projector

Words offer insight into a speaker’s mindset. Speakers who use the phrase “PowerPoint presentation” are revealing something about the way they’re approaching their talks.

If they refer to their upcoming speeches as “PowerPoint presentations,” I’m willing to bet that they didn’t take time to sit and quietly contemplate the story they wanted to tell, the main points they wanted to make, and the narrative that would bind their entire talk together. Instead, they probably planned their speech by creating slides in their PowerPoint program.

Plus, the linguistic construction PowerPoint presentation is all wrong. PowerPoint is a tool that is intended to support your speech, not serve as its main method of delivery. It’s as odd as saying that you’re going to give a Lavaliere presentation or a Flip Chart presentation. Like PowerPoint, microphones and offline visuals are merely tools to serve your larger goals.

I don’t care that people use the phrase “PowerPoint presentation” because I’m a William Safire-like language purist. I care because it’s a revelatory phrase that often indicates flawed thinking.

So remember: There’s no such thing as a “PowerPoint presentation.” There are only presentations, some of which use PowerPoint, some more effectively than others.

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Comments (2)

  1. By Phil Goldstein:

    Hi, Brad,

    Two things which I am not sure if you have written about.

    1. When someone says something offensive and “apologizes” by saying, “I am sorry if I offended you. . . .” it makes it sound like the listener should not have been offended and rubs salt in the wound.

    2. I would like your take on Edward Snowden’s communications. IMO, he is incredibly articulate. Our leaders rant about him being a traitor but he responds rationally and calmly, as he did in Moscow on Friday:

    Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.

    It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

    Calling him a traitor makes our leaders look like hysterical bullies and hypocrites, anxious to blame the messenger. That is why he has garner so much support across political lines. On what other issue do Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh agree?

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    Hi, Phil.

    Thank you for your comment.

    On your first point, you’re exactly right: the “if/then” half-apology tends to inflame a crisis rather than deflating it. I wrote a bit about that in my book, but haven’t done a full post on it. To see an example of a good apology – one that avoids the weasel-like “if/then” structure, check out this post: http://www.mrmediatraining.com/2013/06/26/the-anatomy-of-the-perfect-apology/.

    On your second point, I agree that Edward Snowden is quite articulate and represents himself well in his videos. I’ll sidestep my personal opinion on where he stands on the “traitor-hero” scale, but I would make one other point. I believe his communications are being undercut by his actions. Fleeing to Hong Kong/China and Russia — and considering refuge in Venezuela and Ecuador — doesn’t help his image as an American patriot, especially given that he revealed details of NSA spying on other governments. I’m not sure his well-delivered words can overcome the perception of his actions. As evidence, check out this poll, which shows that 54% of Americans believe he should be prosecuted: http://news.yahoo.com/edward-snowden-hero-many-young-americans-poll-suggests-173023845.html.

    Thanks, as always, for reading the blog!


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