When was the last time that you saw someone give a presentation or talk without slides? I’ll bet that you’ll have to think about that one.
While extremely common these days, slides are certainly not a requirement to give any talk—even an effective one. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The origins of PowerPoint date back to 1984, and many engaging talks took place prior to that. In a low-tech environment like a coffee shop, you might not even have access to a projector, screen, proper A/V system, and the like.
While common today, slides are certainly not required.
Many TED talks are given by people who opt not to use them, although visuals and pictures can have an enormous impact on the audience.
On a personal level, on more than one occasion I’ve turned down the opportunity to speak with slides. Perhaps it was the contrarian in me, but sometimes I just wasn’t feeling the need to use a proper presentation program. In these cases, the slides seemed forced. Why use them when you’re going to speak for a mere five or ten minutes? For my upcoming keynote in Toronto, however, slides seem completely appropriate.
Not using slides can distinguish you from other speakers. They definitely make you appear more corporate. Depending on the event, that can be either a positive or a negative. If you opt to use slides, here are some useful rules of thumb.