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PowerPoint Pearls: Getting Started

This new series will provide background and step-by-step instructions to frequently asked PowerPoint questions. We'll begin by exploring some very important questions about your presentation needs. This month's question is:

Is a PowerPoint presentation appropriate for your purpose or audience?

This is always the first question you should ask yourself when you have to deliver a presentation. There are pros and cons to using presentation software. Here are some points to consider:

"Because everyone else does."

This may sound silly, but it could be a legitimate reason to use presentation software. The use of presentation software is so commonplace, that not using it may give your audience the impression that you are a Luddite.

The use of images may be essential to the presentation content.

For example, your content may require:

  • Visual recognition (e.g., clinical symptoms and pathology)
  • Spatial information (e.g., anatomy)
  • Relational information (e.g., decision making)
  • Affective message (e.g., illustrating behaviors)

The house lights are often turned down during a presentation.

  • This makes note taking very difficult for students. Be sure to distribute comprehensive notes so that your take home points are literally taken home in the form of handouts.

  • As a speaker, dimmed lights interfere with your ability to read the audience. You may not see puzzled looks that would normally queue you to clarify your point, or review some supporting information. This is a significant drawback if you are presenting to students.

The use of presentation software creates a formal atmosphere.

Formality can limit interaction with your audience and this may be a significant deterrent to the use of presentation software. Audience members (particularly students) may not feel comfortable interrupting you to ask a question.