In this Business Week article, Peter Bregman asserts the best meetings are the ones that avoid PowerPoint completely. Mr. Bregman has a lot of experience trying different things and this one rule – avoid PowerPoint – leads to the most productive executive offsites.
It’s true PowerPoint is not the right tool for every purpose. Sometimes you will want to use a flip chart and whiteboard. Sometimes storytelling will be the best approach. And sometimes PowerPoint will do the job best.
In fact, as you move through different phases of your presentation, you will also want to move through different tools. This flexible approach is what presentation consulting firm Eyeful Presentations calls blended presenting.
So when do you use PowerPoint versus storytelling versus whiteboard to achieve your communication goals? Here is what 40 years of research says about the different approaches you’ll want to master:
1. When you want to educate and inform, use PowerPoint and handouts. Several studies show PowerPoint improves learning or has no effect. There are no studies showing PowerPoint harms learning. That means 3-4 bullet points per slide, not 10. And learning improves even more when the audience has handouts of the slides so they don’t have to write so many notes, and only write notes to capture important nuances.
2. When you want to excite or persuade, use storytelling, analogies, metaphors, props and – sparingly – slides with pictures and limited text. People are more likely to agree with a message packaged as a story than the same message packaged as a list of facts. Distractions from the story, like lengthy text on a slide, interferes with the storytelling effect.
3. When you want to drive a decision-making meeting, like with executives, use a whiteboard or flip chart. Research shows visuals help people express different perspectives and understand differing viewpoints with less conflict. Without visuals, assumptions remain hidden and disagreements become more heated and personal.
So, the next time you approach your presentation, ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish during each phase of the presentation. You may use storytelling to open the presentation and engage the audience, PowerPoint to explain an issue, then revert to flip charts and whiteboards for a discussion. This is blended presenting at its finest.
About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.