Use PowerPoint as visual aid, not to kill your presentation

PowerPoint is meant as a visual aid, not a verbal crutch! You, the presenter, still remain the influential tool of communication, and PowerPoint (or any other visual aid) cannot replace this

If it’s been said once it’s been said a million times. PowerPoint Slides don’t talk-the presenter does; PowerPoint slides don’t connect with the audience-the presenter does. Avoiding Death by PowerPoint should be a speaker’s Holy Grail. I am not about to delve into the correct usage of slides. No. Google and others do that better. What I am on about is knowing when to use it-if you must; slides (or any other teaching aid really) must be used as a visual aid and not a verbal crutch.

Last Sunday I listened to a doctor talking to the audience about ulcers. He had 15 minutes to present and had 19 slides! Save for the one slide that showed the diagram of a stomach, the content in the rest was better suited for biology students; it was technical. And the speaker didn’t bother to “speak in English”as I like to call it; that is, communicate in a language the audience will understand. Gastrointestinal it was on the slide and gastrointestinal it remained in his speech. Personally, he “killed” me with his slides three minutes into his presentation; and so I drifted towards the audience whom realized were “dead” too, glancing at their watches wondering when this pain would end. Someone who had ulcers put in best after the pain ended; he said,”I came hoping to get some relief on my ulcer but listening to him only stressed the ulcer the more.” The doctor had used PowerPoint as a verbal crutch not a visual aid.

A crutch is meant to support. One who has a fracture will lean on it to favour the broken leg. A verbal crutch is anything a speaker uses to “speak” for him. As an educator I have this happens for three reasons: he doesn’t know how to say it; or it’s too much work Speaking in English, or, and this is more prevalent, he uses a verbal crutch, PowerPoint in this case, because other people use it and successful Microsoft surely must know something we don’t. And so the vicious cycle continues-the artificial crutch grows in strength and the natural leg weakens, and, if unwatched, atrophies; at which point, the speaker might as well just email the presentation.

A visual aid on the other hand is used when it’s the best (if not, the only) way to show what the speaker is saying. A Science teacher who takes the students outside that they may see what pollination is about has used a visual aid; the doctor speaking about the bone structure is best advised to come along with a real skeleton or an image of one. I know of a CEO of a multinational manufacturing concern who threw out his marketing team who had come to dazzle him with slides of the proposed new packaging “go bring me a prototype!”, he ordered. “I want to feel what the customer will”. And there’s a head of department who shared the story of how he’s never sure where his CEO stands-once he told him he wants one slide-just on;e and another where he stopped him short of starting a presentation of slides, with an assertion: “I can read! What I want to hear is your version”. Which reminded me of how so many interviewees stumble at the question,”tell us about yourself”; most start verbalizing what is already on their CV.”In effect , using the CV as a verbal crutch.

Tell me. As a lay person, how would you have reacted if the doctor hadn’t come with the slides but instead, had started off by equating an ulcer to an open wound in the stomach exposed to the acids which digest food. And equated the burning sensation to a million times that which applying spirit inflames on a wound. And continued”peaking in English”. Would you have drifted? I doubt. I know I wouldn’t.

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