Powerpoint and the Spoken Word

Read this on the SAP Plexus blogs:

Client: “Should I have a PowerPoint?”

Pistachio: “Why?”

Client: “I don’t want them to be bored.”

Pistachio: “Then don’t.”

Pistachio: “Is there anything you need to tell them that you cannot do with your body or your voice?”

Client: “No.”

Pistachio: “There you go.”

Pistachio: “Uh, do you mind if I write this down for a blog post?”

[From Plexus Beta: Killer Presentations: I don't want them to be bored.]

Made me think of something I read today from the late Charlton Heston. In a letter to the editor of The Weekly Standard about a book review dealing with the works of Shakespeare, a body of work that Heston knew more intimately than any other American actor:

Being a writer, Sobran misreads Shakespeare as academics do: He treats him as a writer. I know, there he is on the page, but that’s not where he or his plays live. Shakespeare leaps alive in air, in the spoken sound of his words. Only actors really understand this, though audiences sense it subliminally, in performance. When you’re redacting the plays in rehearsal, you make the changes in terms of the sound as much as the meaning. Also the pauses.

I’m no great communicator it doesn’t take one to know that the way most people butcher a message with Powerpoint does neither them nor their audience any favors. The art of business communication is not forever lost, but it has quite often never been acquired largely because we have confused the medium with the message.

Heston writes about the spoken sound of words versus the written word, and I think that most great presentations come alive through the spoken word and not through the coldness that is a slide. Great presentations put the actor at the front and powerpoint in merely a supporting role.