Why You Should Never Give a PowerPoint Presentation

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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