To PowerPoint or Not to PowerPoint

To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint, that’s the question. Kevin talks about it with Otto Wijnen.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint, that’s the question. I talk about it with Otto Wijnen.


Hi Otto, welcome to our studio.


Thank you so much.


Today we’re going to talk about PowerPoint presentations, but what’s the fuss about? Because a lot of speakers have a hate or love relationship with them. Should we use them or not?


It depends.




The thing is, that nowadays,the word PowerPoint is similar to a presentation. Can you send me your PowerPoint so that we have your presentation? No, it’s not the same thing. One is an addition to a normal presentation, to a story, and the other is the story itself. So that division must be made first. If you want someone to speak then you hear a story. And perhaps this person uses PowerPoint in addition to his story to underline... to make his point, PowerPoint. And he can either use bullet points or images or video, a very powerful tool to communicate emotion.


But let’s start with those bullet points.


Do you know where the name derives from?


Is it the point of a bullet?


No. Yeah, sort of. When speakers are too boring, the people start shooting at the speaker and therefore you have bullet points.


You see a lot of presentations where you have a slide; it looks more like a full text book than a slide.


Yeah. The thing is that, it originated as an aid for speakers but it somehow became the storyline for the speaker. So, it’s the speaker notes that now appear on screen and they shouldn’t. They should appear on the speaker notes on the laptop in the speaker note section of the screen perhaps, Or on paper. But not on screen. What I see often is that the full five or seven bullet points appear on screen, and they start talking about them, one by one by one by one. The audience has already read of seven of them, so they’re bored by the end that the speaker comes to the last bullet point. So, bullet points are good for short information. If you end your talk and you have something like for instance, if you have a speak about cars, the range, the lifetime expectancy, I don’t know, what can you tell about cars?


Short information.


Short information. The price, when can you order it; those things are perfect for bullets.


Or maybe for a recap or something like that.


Exactly yeah. That’s what bullet points are good for,and the rest should be on your speaker notes.


Okay, but should we then even use slides or what should we put on them?


It depends on your story. If I want to talk about my youth or my past, then I could do perfectly without images. Or I could show a picture of me at the age of seven.


Yeah, an image, at something …


It’s emotion.


Imagination yeah.


And of course, if I have a story about something that’s really very visual, like the route of a fiber network, then of course you show the fiber network. Where it’s located, how it’s located on a map. An image says more than a thousand words in that case. So of course, PowerPoint is like plastic. There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint, but there’s too much of it, and it’s used in the false way.


Okay, in Dutch you wrote a book about presentations, it’s called, ‘Help I Need to Speak’. I just translated it.


Thank you so much, yeah. Let me hand it to you.


Okay, thank you. I would say, it can be interesting for the users to buy one but it’s only in Dutch.


Yeah, sorry, the book is only in Dutch yet.


But there are some very interesting tips in there. Maybe you can share something with us.


The best advice I can give any speaker is: knowing your audience is more important than knowing your subject. So, take time and study your audience. Who are they, what are their greatest pains and fears, and is your talk a solution for that. I even advise people, if you should find that you’re not the best speaker for their subject, for their pain or for their fears or whatever, then don’t speak. That’s a song by No Doubt. Or let someone else do the talking. So yeah, take time and study your audience.


But how do you do that?


One solution is of course you get information from the people who hire you or the company that hires you. But in any case, one thing that really works like magic,is call someone who will be in the audience. So, pick up your phone a week, or two weeks ahead.Call someone in the audience, and just ask: what are you expecting of this, of this day, how can I help you most. And that way, when you’re standing on stage you can even refer to the phone call. Last week I spoke to, either you name them or you say to someone in the audience who is long been a practitioner of…




Whatever the subject is. And that way you show the audience that you’ve taken your time to study them and gives you credit.


Okay: know the audience.


Know the audience. Choose the right structure. Nowadays for instance you can also say start your presentation with just showing a slide that says: questions. And let it be completely interactive.


Does it work like that?


It’s very refreshing. If you just say, okay I’m here to speak about, name a subject, scuba diving for instance. Is there anyone who does have any questions about this? And there’s always someone who has a question. And if not then, of course you can do your story. But it’s very rewarding for the audience to be involved in the presentation. And other ways, you can use the past, present, future.You can somehow make a circle. Use the hero’s journey where you have a suboptimal situation, a problem, a journey, a big conflict and then finally…


Watchers, I wrote about that in my book Event Planner, so if you don’t have it already.


Oh, it’s a great book. Too great book already. So, the hero’s journey is one solution. Paper, title, method where you can grab the audience attention with an interesting title, with an interesting quote. Then give a summary of your subject. Say how long it’s going to take, how they can respond. What’s the need, why do you need to speak about this.And what will they have learned in the end?


The what, when, where in journalism. Something like that.


Another word I use is INTRO: interest-need-time-respons-objective.


Okay, yeah.


And then you can do some story telling. Where you give an example, elaborate and give your message. And in the end, you make a summary of your whole speech, you give the details and finally, a call to action. That’s a very common and practical structure. And of course, I have this model, this method that I wrote, where you first have your mental preparation,your content preparation, your physical preparation. Because I think rehearsal is something physical. So stand-up and rehearse, preferably in front of a camera. Then you have the execution where you go on stage. You do your thing. Prepare like it’s a performance, as if you need to sing. So do rehearse. Prepare yourself at the moment. Breath in, breath out, relax. Be in contact with yourself and with your audience. And finally evaluate.


And how do you do that?


There are two options, either you hire someone who is really into public speaking. Or make a recording. Don’t trust on your colleagues for feedback. Don’t trust on your audience for feedback. Because they don’t know what could have been done.


Okay, yeah.


Only you know what could have been done. And a professional speaker coach knows what could have been done. What you have you left out.




And then as an aid, I developed the evaluation wheel, where you can give yourself an appreciation, a value, for what you’ve done. And focus on three thingsfor your next speech. So, either my interaction or my pronunciation or my slides for that matter.


Not everything at the same time?


No, just three things.


Otto, thank you very for all those tips.


You’re very welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next time.