Last week, I was cleaning up a presentation ("Virtual Teams in the Age of the Network") that I gave last Fall at the Brookings Executive Education program for a new one I'm giving there next Tuesday. It was, let me see, a frustrating (no), aggravating (closer), *!#$%^***!! (getting there) experience.
For reasons known only to some programmer (not even a developer) who's probably cashed out by now for life on a private Caribbean island, I could not change the footer. Page numbers would not appear. Bullet symbols would not convert from vertical lines to small dots. Line spacing would not reduce. Please don't send me suggestions as I didn't just fall off the PPT turnip truck. I tried saving with a new file name, copying content of troublesome slides to new slides, changing slide master, etc. We all know the tricks. A colleague with a PC (yes, I'm Mac, he's PC) - after struggling as well - was finally able to make most of the changes.
So when I was asked to speak at the Boston KM Forum, I decided to go slideless. Just stand up and speak. True, the topic lent itself to addressing the audience directly: "Moving Beyond Web 2.0 Resistance." Which ultimately is not about technology but about people, ye ole' "90% people, 10% technology" rule.
When Larry Chait introduced me, he said I would not be using slides. A hearty round of applause followed. And as I spoke, I sensed that people were actually listening, as in making eye contact, nodding their heads, responding when I asked questions. Note to other speakers out there: IT FELT GREAT!
Doug Cornelius live-blogged my talk which Paul Levy has responded to with "Throw off the crutches of ppt!" - where he gives a really good list of reasons why Powerpoint may not be exactly the most powerful way to engage an audience. Read them both. And thanks, guys. Maybe we can teach a class about how to give a presentation without slides.
One last thought: Edward Tufte gives a very good seminar (and has written an essay called "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint," in which he gives some excellent suggestions for how to use PPT if you must). I attended it a few years ago and, humbly, feel that when I do use slides, they're the better for it.