Ethan Rotman

Proper Use of PowerPoint

In PowerPoint on November 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Speaking Tip 51

Have you ever found yourself making any of these statements?

  • “My audience expects me to use PowerPoint”
  • “Everyone else does boring PowerPoint, but I am different”
  • “I can’t give a talk without slides”
  •  “I hate PowerPoint”

PowerPoint can be a powerful aid to your presentation or it can be a huge distraction. Many speakers mistakenly believe that audiences expect or want PowerPoint. Most audiences have seen PowerPoint used poorly so many times they tune out before the projector is even turned on.

PowerPoint is a visual aid: a tool to visually show what the speaker is saying in words. Used properly, it supplements your words and helps the audience understand a concept. Used improperly, it distracts and bores audiences as they tune-out the presentation and take a mental holiday.

The words spoken and the images shown should be carefully selected to achieve a specific objective. A speaker needs to carefully decide what to say as well as what not to say to bring the audience to the desired end. The visual aids presented should compliment, not duplicate, the words.

Some common mistakes speakers make include:

  • Projecting their notes or entire script on the screen
  • Showing pictures or images not related to what is being discussed
  • Using graphs and charts with too much detail
  • Believing the slides are more important than the spoken words

Each image shown, each word and line projected, should emphasize, illuminate, or illustrate what you are saying. If it does not, it becomes a distraction.

PowerPoint can effectively:

  • Display an image to help the audience understand what you are saying
  • Highlight key words or phrases to focus attention
  • Show pictures that evoke emotion
  • Demonstrate trends on charts and graphs

A good presentation is built on a theme or message. The speaker outlines and crafts his words, then looks at what type of visual aid will enhance these words. Picking the correct visual aid and using it properly can be a tremendous asset to a speaker. Using the wrong visual aid, or using the right one in a poor manner, will undermine his efforts.

The speaker’s role is to capture and focus the energy of the audience. Use your visual aids to help you.





© 2009 iSpeakEASY 

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

  1. Thank you for hi-liting the fact that being “current” is not always being effective, and using the most current media is not always the right decision. In speaking about the respective merits of mediation, arbitration and litigation, I rarely use a visual aid. Should I? The answer is probably yes, for the limited purpose of showing the statistical data regarding the formats in which disputes are resolved. Does that mean that I should use PowerPoint throughout a presentation? My thought is no, it does not.

    • Hello Lauren:

      Here is the question for you Lauren – what are you willing to do to help your audience understand what you are saying? How important is that to you? (In your case, I imagine your audience is your client, other attorneys, a judge, and perhaps a jury).

      There is no broad-brush answer for if you should or should not use a visual aid. The situation and desired outcome will determine if visual aids will help. Most people are not auditory learners – meaning most of us do not learn well just by listening. Research shows that retention of information will be increased by up to 600% when effective visual aids are used.

      I suppose you are dealing with very technical, dry and detail oriented information where a slight variation can make a world a difference. A good visual aid will help people understand and remember what you are saying. If you are arguing a case, it can give you the “leg up” on the opposing counsel.

      Keep in mind; I am advising you to use a visual aid of which PowerPoint is only one option. You could also use white boards and graphs on poster board or easel pads. PowerPoint can be effective, but so can other media as well.

      Yes, I would encourage you to use visual aids. Does this help you?

  2. Just one word – Terrific

  3. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired! Very useful info specifically the final part 🙂 I take care of such information much. I used to be looking for this certain info for a long time. Thanks and good luck.

  4. […] of all, how should power points be used? Ethan Rotman states, “A speaker needs to carefully decide what to say as well as what not to say to bring […]

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