Saturday, December 11, 2010

PowerPoint and Prezi

In his book Real Leaders Don't Do PowerPoint, Christopher Witt writes:

I always ask my clients to describe the most powerful speech they can remember hearing from a leader. What did the leader do, I ask, that made the speech so impressive? Their answers vary, although they inevitably touch upon similar elements: the leader's sense of presence, conviction, passion, quick wit, or ready humor, ability to reach out and touch the audience, masterful delivery, and -most of all- an engaging and memorable message. In all the times I've asked the question, never once has anyone answered, "I liked how the speaker used PowerPoint."

And there's a reason for that.

Professionals and academicians often debate the merits of PowerPoint. Both sides of the argument have one thing in common: They assume its purpose is to transmit information. And that's precisely why leaders -real leaders- want little to do with it. Becaus they aren't primarily concerned with communicating information. They speak to promote a vision, a direction, or a passion. They're seeking to influence and inspire. And no one thinks PowerPoint is the way to do that.

True, if you're making a report, conducting a training session, or leading a seminar, communicating information becomes more critical. But it should never be the sole or even the primary reason you're speaking. Speak like a leader and you'll present information not for its own sake, but in a way that shapes how the audience thinks about it and influences how they act on it.

Whether you like Powerpoint, Prezi, or some other visual presentation aid, remember that great presentations are built on great people - if your message is to matter to others, it will be more because of your character and story than your slide deck.


  1. Hmm yes but I’m not so sure I’m convinced by the idea of “speaking like a leader”. Most people who attempt to speak like leaders are insufferable pretenders. Mussolini and Hitler both spoke like leaders but fortunately most people see through this kind of rhetoric these days.

    It's true though, great visuals do not a great presentation make.

    “…my custom whenever I am invited to speak in some place, to develop some consequences of my views which I expect to be unacceptable to the particular audience. For I believe that there is only one excuse for a lecture: to challenge.” –Karl Popper

  2. I could be wrong, but maybe a good example of "speaking like a leader" would be the movie V for Vendetta. (It's based off the graphic novel V for Vendetta but I haven't read that) V often says "A man can be killed, an idea is untouchable." or something along those lines, and "This country doesn't need a building... it needs hope."

    I don't know how to say it's like that, but I think it is. Though, Hamlyn, I don't think Hitler spoke like a leader, he spoke like a tyrant, and a tyrant is not a leader, he is an oppressor.

  3. Hi Sam,

    You're absolutely right Hitler was a tyrant and an oppressor but let's not forget that he was also a leader, a very charismatic and intelligent one at that. He has only subsequently become a the caricature that we now see. But my point is - let's not assume that we are somehow above mistaking tyrants for leaders or leaders for great speakers or great speakers for leaders for that matter.



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