Beyond PowerPoint

I’m in the gorgeous Paradise Valley- Scottsdale AZ- keynoting one of the world’s premier women’s leadership conferences for Navigant. As always when keynoting, I went without PowerPoint- something that gets initial pushback from clients but wins me points when I’m done.

Afterwards, one of the senior executives from Navigant came up and told me that she’s heading up an event next month at which no slides will be used. She was intrigued by my reasons for not using the famous crutch.

I told her that I agree with Lucy Kellaway, the terrific Financial Times columnist, who once wrote: “the problem with PPT is that it makes simple ideas too complex and complex ideas too simple.”

Also, as a former speechwriter, I got tired of working with clients who couldn’t say good morning to six people without a slide (overhead transparencies in those days) and vowed that if I ever got in front of an audience I would avoid them.

The slide-dependent speakers I worked with spent half their time with their backs to the audience. Yes, I know that’s not the fault of the slide, but having one makes it easy to forget that you have real live people before you.

Of course, going without slides is a bigger risk. If you don’t have your main points fairly well memorized, you’re going to be stuck staring down at your notes. You can’t rely on what’s on the screen to jog your memory.

Also, there’s the problem of what to do with your hands- the clicker gives you a way to use them. Hands at your sides- that feels so vulnerable!

But the payoff—the connection with the audience, the sense of engagement, the rhythm of call-and-response, the sheer energy you can generate—is simply too profound to walk away from.

Going PPT-less takes nerve and preparation—a subject I’ll address in my next installment of News You Can Use. But I’m here in Paradise Valley telling you it’s worth it.