Are you ready to join the Anti-PowerPoint Party?

Inspired by Lucy Kellaway’s article in the Financial Times, I have just joined the Anti PowerPoint Party.

I have refused to do Powerpoints for years – but are often made to feel this could be a disadvantage when pitching for new work. ‘Please send your Powerpoint by 4pm the night before your presentation’ or ‘let us know what AV equipment you will need’. When you say you don’t need anything there is often a pause – and you can hear their thought bubble ‘are they dinosaurs?’.

Why do I refuse to do Powerpoints? These are my reasons, but you will see I agree strongly with much of what Lucy is saying:

1. Powerpoint makes you lazy

Presenting without a Powerpoint is hard work. You have to think about what are the key messages you want to get over, and how will you bring these to life.

When I pitched to Leeds University Faculty of Medicine and Health, I talked about how I would bring their research to life. I took with me a platter of beautifully prepared healthy fruit to pass around while I talked about the research they had done on health and how I would tie into healthy media themes.

I also took a teeth whitening kit – and then talked about the Leeds Dental Institute being the UK’s number one dentist school and positioning them as commentators on issues such as ‘are whitening kits dangerous for your teeth?’

The panel laughed and were engaged. And I won the pitch.

2. Powerpoint stops you engaging with your audience

The biggest danger with Powerpoint is that you concentrate on the screen and your notes – not your audience.

When you are presenting, you need to watch the body language of your audience. You can quickly see if people are agreeing with you (nodding heads), resistant to your suggestions (folded arms), bored (playing on iphone or asleep) or not understanding (a questioning look, head on one side). A child could recognise these signs – but they will be missed if you are fiddling around with clickers and looking at your screen.

When you know what your audience is thinking, you can skip bits that aren’t appealing, expand elements or ask questions if you don’t think your audience is with you – and know who you need to win around when it comes to discussion after a presentation.

3. Powerpoint requires technology which requires … working kit

How many times have you seen presenters spend the first five or ten minutes trying to get a laptop to connect or the screen to come alive?

This distracts and irritates the audience, unnerves the presenter and you either over-run as a result or lose half the content – which you may or may not have paid to hear.

4. No Powerpoint, no fear

As Lucy Kellaway says, it is a heck of a lot more challenging to present without Powerpoint. Yes Powerpoint is a crutch, but if you need that crutch you need some lessons in presenting.

You need to focus on researching your audience, a few jokes to engage with and warm them up and get your presentation down to its pithy essence. Not spend hours researching images and writing out your talk in lengthy bullet points.

Hooray to the Anti PowerPoint Party – I will spread the message in the UK.

Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.