Microsoft bought PowerPoint 25 years ago. Happy anniversary.
PowerPoint has a curious status these days – it’s ubiquitous and yet widely loathed. Both the ubiquity and the loathing are overdone.
Here are three tips I’ve found very useful as a speaker.
1) There are three things you can do with PowerPoint (or most of its rivals). You can put visual aids on a screen; you can create bullet-point speaker’s notes; and you can produce handouts for people to take home. All of these uses are perfectly legitimate, but you can’t do them all at once. Your speaker’s notes should be on small cards in your hand; your handouts can have contact details, sources, a bibliography, or dense data; your visuals should be simple and look awesome. If you feel you need to do all three, fine: you will need to create three completely different presentations.
2) If you don’t have anything useful to display for a particular section of your talk, display nothing. During slideshow mode, press B to show a black slide, or W for a white one. Or if you don’t have direct access to the computer while presenting, insert blank slides as necessary. There’s nothing wrong with giving a talk during which you only show one or two slides – but don’t leave them up as wallpaper.
3) You don’t have to use any visual aids at all. You might be surprised at how much people focus on you when you stop competing with yourself for attention.