- Bore: one who has the power of speech but not the capacity for conversation. Benjamin Disraeli
Computerized slideshows have been much maligned of late. No more bullet points. Death by PowerPoint. PowerPointlessness. You've heard them all. And probably seen more than a few examples of poor slide show use.
But let me tell you, the only thing worse than a bad speech with PowerPoint is a bad speech without it. Not long ago I listened to a very smart man with very good ideas give a very poor keynote. He started off by bragging of his "lack of slides," but then went on to read (yes, read) his talk directly from the text he assured us would be online verbatim in a few days. Uniformly formal, ceaselessly forceful, and demeaningly parental, this audience member left feeling unconnected, unmoved, and feeling like a kid who was read the riot act by the principal for about an hour. When the speaker later asked me what I thought of his talk, I tactfully replied, "It was challenging." I didn't elaborate that the challenging part was staying for all of it.
I wonder if the speaker might have been more natural and made a better connection had he not been provided a lectern on which to prop his notes. Just might a major cause of bad "speeches" be the lectern itself - that large slab of wood originally designed to protect speakers' vital organs from sharp objects thrown by displeased listeners? (I just made that up.)
While I always request a wireless lapel microphone so I can wander a bit when speech - ifying, there are time when the only voice amplification is hardwired right to the lecture and one is pretty much forced to stay behind it in one place. And as much as I try to overcome it, this restraint changes my message:
- I am more formal.
- I am more likely to "read" the slides on my laptop sitting right in front of me.
- There is less give and take between the audience and me.
- There is a physical barrier creating a "me, the expert" and "you, the receiver" rather than an open space that says "let's form a partnership though which we can solve some mutual problems."
OK, it is somewhat comforting to know that when using a lectern the second "Is my fly zipped?" check is not necessary and that most lecterns are slimming. But let's expand our suggestions for the improvement of public speaking beyond "ban the bullet points." Whether the message is read from paper on a lectern or digits in a PowerPoint screen, it's all poor communication.