Perhaps no software or technology tool has been so readily adapted by the public speaking and educational markets as Microsoft's PowerPoint. Originally intended to summarise data in chart or graph form for easy assimilation by an audience, these trusty visuals projected on millions of walls the world over have become the de facto standard for almost any presentation. The trick to keeping your PowerPoint presentation effective is to know its limitations.
Some people are auditory learners, and some are visual learners, which simply means they process and retain information better by either hearing it or seeing it. One of the advantages to PowerPoint is that it presents information simultaneously to both styles of learners. As our world becomes more global, the software raises audience comprehension for non-native speakers since, even if you miss a few of the spoken words along the way, the outline of the material is still there on the wall to read.
Another PowerPoint advantage is its ability to simplify complex arguments or concepts down to a level that most people can understand. PowerPoint lends itself perfectly to presenting a main point with three bulleted sub-points beneath. The human brain is genetically designed to comprehend ideas and information when it is presented in groups of three, and the PowerPoint software plays perfectly into this propensity.
Not everyone loves to sit through a PowerPoint presentation. Too many speakers are either uncomfortable in front of a group or fall into the lazy habit of simply reading from the slides. Unless it's a very short talk, this will bore an audience quickly. While the temptation to read from the slides is great, sometimes overwhelming, speakers should refrain from doing so. One of the software's drawbacks is letting it do the presentation for you. If all the speaker is going to do is read, perhaps he's not needed in the first place. The presentation needs a human connection to bring in outside material, comments and anecdotes.
The real trouble with PowerPoint is that it has come to be regarded by some as a panacea to public speaking and presentations. The truth is that the success or failure of any presentation comes down to content. Either your content is riveting and well organised, or it's boring and haphazard. PowerPoint cannot fix bad content or boring speakers. It's a tool to make a good presentation better but not a magic pill to overcome poor presentations.