PowerPoint Presentations represent a unique and relatively very modern innovation on the age old practice of public speaking, a technologised update on a convention rooted in antiquity. While the great Hellenic rhetoricians may not have had access to the same audio-visual aids as we do today, their overall objective in oration was effectively the same as that of PowerPoint Presentations: put simply, to convince the listeners of a certain case. Whether that case was meant to persuade or motivate, defend or attack, certain essential formal and thematic principles were always in play, each intended to convey the relevant information in the most compelling, lucid and convincing fashion; and this is where PowerPoint offers a huge advantage – in affording a dynamic platform which allows for mixed media, photos, videos, animations, graphs, maps, charts, quotations, and more. The means of persuasion are now vastly increased, allowing the presenter to marshal a wide variety of content and exhibit it in ways that greatly enhance the core message. For these reasons, PowerPoint Presentations are a potentially unparalleled tool for transmitting information, and can be used to great effect in diverse contexts, from the classroom to the boardroom and everything in between.
Projection allows for the speaker literally and figuratively to magnify and highlight important pieces of information, to isolate a certain part of a speech, say, or animate the progression of a graph; to use visual aids to lend their point more resonance. A well-crafted PowerPoint Presentation has the power to engage an audience in ways that traditional oratory arguably cannot. The ability to complement a speech with a range of visual cues and markers invests the speaker with a special advantage, allowing the use of visual media to lead the audience’s thoughts and emotions. Note that a visual image of a warzone, for example, has a lot more emotional impact than a verbal depiction of one; and that showing something as opposed to telling it is usually the most effective way of conveying the information at issue. With a PowerPoint Presentation the case is slightly different, however, because the ultimate purpose is to accompany and enhance, as opposed to replacing, a speech. The key to an effective PowerPoint Presentation, then, is finding the right balance between slides projected and words spoken. Too much of one or the other will leave the presentation imbalanced and jarring for the audience. There is a delicate economy at play in a compelling presentation. You want neither to lean on nor neglect the digital aspects of the presentation. Instead, you need carefully to navigate the spoken and the visual, bringing the two into union in a logical manner that drives the presentation forward. This requires judicious use of slides, making sure not to minimise the power of visuals through overuse. The technical benefit of PowerPoint is in allowing a speaker to connect with a large audience in a direct and visually stimulating way, such as would not be possible with hand-outs or pamphlets; it effectively equates a unique multi-media event. As in all such instances, best practice requires perfection over time.
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