The era of the PowerPoint presentation is over

By on April 3, 2013

Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson says presentations are sliding into oblivion as Audiences demand interaction and get fed up with technical terms and clichés.

I think the era of the PowerPoint presentation is over.

Now no one wants to sit in a business meeting and listen to someone lecturing at length, accompanied by a series of slides.

Perhaps people never did. This generation demands interaction and participation. Lengthy, transmit-only monologues are dead.

One reads that audiences used to stand in the rain and listen to two-hour speeches by great orators like Gladstone. That level of sustained and deferential attention from a crowd is history.

This is why the TED Talks are successful. To be relevant to listeners in the 21st century you need to incorporate their input. Often, I’m asked to give speeches and told to talk for 30 minutes. I always tell the organisers of such events that actually the attendees really only want at most 10 minutes from me – and then they want to ask questions and join in a discussion.

There are advantages to this new model of public speaking. It means audiences have to work harder – they cannot just sit back and doze. It is far more democratic. And speakers cannot minutely prepare their script – because they will be asked unexpected questions and will have to provide unrehearsed answers.

This means the content will be less likely to be edited by the PR department – and so probably will be more revealing.

Moreover, presentations using programmes such as PowerPoint tend to be stultifyingly technical and full of clichés, and they are frequently cut-and-paste jobs from the web.

Off-the-cuff responses during a Q&A session are probably much more honest and personal.

This trend doesn’t apply only to the corporate conference circuit. I believe traditional lectures in an educational context are similarly out of date. Instead, professors and teachers must actively engage with their students – in the room but also electronically, using video and websites as part of any teaching session.

Indeed, I think even classic linear entertainment like the 90-minute film may have to change.

The extraordinary Harlem Shake phenomenon suggests the old relationship between movie and TV producers and audiences is starting to crumble.

Hundreds of thousands of unpaid citizens have been making their own short clips of the song for fun and posting them on YouTube. This has exploded globally in a matter of weeks.

The old-school Hollywood studios don’t understand what is going on. But thanks to cheap technology, now everyone can make a little film and show it to the world.

The same involvement is happening with newspapers, magazines, radio and even books. We are all creators and part of the action.

Be it a pitch, a documentary or an article – this is the age of feedback and partnership. Authors, performers, directors, politicians, promoters and presenters who fail to realise this may soon be unemployed.


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