Speaking PowerPoint, Book Review
Bruce Gabrielle sent me his book, Speaking PowerPoint: The New Language of Business. Get it here.
Since I’m the author of Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint and no great fan of the software, I put off reading it for some time. But I’m glad I finally got around to it. I’m about half way through it, and I find it one of the best books on the subject I’ve come across. If you use PowerPoint, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy and give it a read.
I haven’t changed my mind. I still believe that leaders shouldn’t use PowerPoint. They should be giving speeches, which are meant to influence and inspire, not making presentations, which are about communicating information that people can understand and put to use.
To influence and inspire your audience you have to appeal to their emotions and imaginations, which is done better by telling stories and relying on the power of the spoken word.
To inform people and enable them to take action, you need to use visual aids. PowerPoint is the most commonly used visual aid in business (and elsewhere) today. Bruce makes a great case for its use and for how to use it effectively.
Speaking PowerPoint is almost 300 8-by-10-inch pages. It’s crammed with great information. Much of it reads like a manual, making it something you’ll want to refer to from time to time, not read through in one sitting. But I suggest you read the first 60 pages or so to get started.
I especially like the distinction Gabrielle makes between boardroom- versus ballroom-style presentations. I quote what he says in length because I think it’s so important:
Ballroom-style PowerPoint has a single use: to provide visual support for a speaker. It contains little text and so doesn’t work well as standalone reading. Without the speaker, the slides make little sense.
Boardroom-style PowerPoint may have several uses. It may be read standalone at a computer screen — a reading deck — or printed and discussed in a team meeting — a discussion deck –or presented to a roomful of decision-makers — a briefing deck. Sometimes a single deck has to work in all three situations. The audience wants to read your slides before the meeting, or after the meeting, or instead of attending the meeting. They want to forward your deck to others in the company. Boardroom-style slides need to work as both presentations and standalone documents.
In ballroom-style presentations the speaker speaks and the audience listens. There may be opportunity for questions and answers at some point, but the speaker is not looking for feedback or lengthy discussion. The speaker controls the pace of the presentation.
Boardroom-style PowerPoint involves decision makers of different levels in the company. When you present to a vice president, they do not meekly listen; they have questions, they will challenge assumptions, they will tell you what they want to see modified. When you collaborate with colleagues, they have opinions and want to shape the deck. So boardroom-style PowerPoint is interactive.
Because boardroom-style slides are intended for a different kind of audience and different kinds of uses, the typical PowerPoint advice does not apply. In fact, the typical advice is often the wrong thing to do. [My emphasis]
If you’ve read Speaking PowerPoint, what do you think? Do you like the distinction Bruce makes between boardroom- and ballroom-style presentations?