When Should You Use PowerPoint?

When I was speaking to a group of keynote speakers at a professional speakers convention on the topic of when PowerPoint should be used, many people found the ideas I shared helpful, so I thought I would share them with you in this article.

As I explained to the group, I think you can see almost any business-oriented presentation as somewhere along a continuum where one end is a fully inspirational presentation and the other end is a totally informational presentation. One of the key distinctions along the line between the two ends is how many points you want the audience to remember.

A purely inspirational presentation, like a pep talk you would give your team, has very few points you need the audience to remember, perhaps only one key point. A highly informational presentation, like a training program, can have many points that you want the audience to remember in order to improve their job performance. In between the two ends of the spectrum there are a variety of different presentations with various numbers of points being made.

To help the audience remember your message, you should use recall aids. A recall aid is something that the audience can use to recall the points you have made after you are finished the presentation. There are many different forms of recall aids, including handouts, workbooks, cards, and yes, PowerPoint. PowerPoint can be a recall aid because it can give visual reminders of the points we are making.

The most popular usage of PowerPoint as a recall aid is when we use the title and bullet points to reinforce the key points we are speaking about. An even more effective way to use PowerPoint as a recall aid is to use visuals such as graphs, diagrams, or images to help tell a story that illustrates your point.

Audiences remember your powerful stories more than any other part of your presentation. You can burn the points in their memory even more by showing a photo, telling a story related to that photo, then making the point that the story and photo illustrate. In this way, the emotional impact of the photo will add weight to the point you make through the story.

PowerPoint should not necessarily be the only recall aid you use, but it could be a valuable tool in helping your audience remember and act on your points. When you plan your next presentation (my GPS approach makes it easy to plan your presentation), think about where you are on the continuum between an inspirational and an informational presentation. Then consider how PowerPoint may fit into your plan for recall aids.

When you do decide to use PowerPoint slides, don’t feel that you must always have a slide on the screen. This article gives three times you will want to use a black slide.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.