To PowerPoint or not? I am often asked if using PowerPoint in a Toastmasters competition speech is acceptable. But if you read further you will see my definite NO and why. Confidence in your equipment becomes paramount.
When you are delivering a 5 to 7 minute speech, time is of the essence. You need to be in total control of ALL the facets you are using in your speech. Contributing to your delivery, your pace, your pauses, your tonal & vocal variety, eye contact and your choreography about the stage. Yes, dynamics offers opportunities, but potential pitfalls also.
Enter PowerPoint. I count no less than 5 serial facets you inherit that link and depend on each other. You have the laptop, the projector, the screen, your hand held slide advancer and last but not least, the PowerPoint software itself. Each are active, potentially with a mind of their own.
The computer might freeze or decide to run an update or virus scan, your projector bulb may blow, your screen may not come down or jam, the battery in your hand held clicker hand held clicker may go dead and even your PowerPoint program may freeze. These facets you have little control over.
When you are on stage, you use facets which you have 100% total and repeatable control over. Even a small blip in your PowerPoint delivery may frazzle you, leaving you scrambling to backfill. This would take away your concentration and focus from you delivery. It is NOT what anyone wants or needs.
PowerPoint is fine for an educational or keynote. A hiccup with those presentations may add some comic relief which many would appreciate because, let’s face it, we have all been there. You can easily recover. But in a contest, all eyes are on you and a smooth delivery.
How do I know?
Recently I was at a speech contest where a contestant was using PowerPoint, and that is exactly what happened. Sure enough, 1 minute into the speech, the slide would not power up. Five seconds of a frustrated expression clearly signaled to the judges (and audience) that some content will not be seen. If the facial expression wasn’t enough, the disapproving shrug of the contestants shoulders confirmed this. The judges, unfortunately, would be highly likely to mark lower, because of the missing content and, no doubt, the interruption to a smooth delivery.
Short answer – Don’t use PowerPoint in a competitive level speech or where the stakes are high, like a pivotal moment with senior executives.