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Do Speakers Need to Use Slides?

A few thoughts on whether PowerPoint is required to give a talk.
May | 8 | 2013

May | 8 | 2013

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.

Simon Says

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.


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  1. Betsy Makepeace Simpson

    Right on! PowerPoint is a tool to be used when visuals enhance the content. I love to pull out the old flip charts when facilitating small groups: they allow me to improvise based on the audience’s needs.

    Thanks for the list of tips for PPoint users. Another great resource I recommend is Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson. He provides a template that helps frame every presentation as a story, so you get the emotional hook of storytelling and the illustrations of a good storybook.

  2. Terri Griffith


    Thanks for the reminder about Beyond Bullet Points – love the story mode.


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