High Tech or High Touch? What’s a Speaker to Do?

When PowerPoint technology first came out, professors of public speaking had mixed responses.  On the one hand, crisp, professional looking computer generated slides were a big improvement over the cluncky slide carousels that more often than not had at least one slide upside down, made noise and demanded a fully darkened room.  On the other hand, PowerPoint technology wasn’t much different because by showing PowerPoint slides, the attention turned from speaker to slide show and technology troubles, such as lack of power, poorly designed slides and inexperience advancing slides all took away from the message the speaker was trying to convey.   And I tell students every semester:  making a slide presentation is NOT public speaking.

So how do you decide if you should “technologize” your presentation?  I struggle with this, too.  So, here are some guidelines to help both of us prepare for our next presentations:

1.  Do you need to convey numerical data such as charts and graphs?  If so, Power Point slides may a good idea. 

2.  If you want to show video or go to websites, Power Point slides are a good choice.

2.  If the speech is more about YOU, slides are often a poor choice.  What political candidate goes around with a PowerPoint?   Attention will turn from YOU to “Oh, what a neat show.”

3.  If you decide to make a PowerPoint, follow guidelines that will make sure it is good. Indezine has some good tips.

4.  Consider only using the PowerPoint for part of your presentation, such as at the beginning or the end, so that you can still command the focus of the presentation.

4.  Whether you use technology or not, PRACTICE!  Be good!  Have enthusiasm about your topic, remember why your audience came to hear you and enjoy all the attention!

Nichola D. Gutgold is associate professor of communication, arts and sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley and author of Seen and Heard:  The Women of Television News (2008).


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