It’s a debate that’s been brewing since PowerPoint was born (around 1987, that is). Is PowerPoint a better presentation tool than the old-fashioned flip chart?
The answer to the flip-chart versus PowerPoint question may depend on the audience type and what you’re trying to convey. A flip-chart could be the obvious winner in a small group or a low-tech environment. (Wilderness retreat, anyone?) On the other hand, PowerPoint may be the visual aid of choice when you need to convey a lot of information to a very large crowd.
One thing is clear: there are definite advantages to the flip-chart approach. Fortunately, you can easily incorporate these aspects into any PowerPoint presentation. Here’s how any presenter can enjoy the best of both worlds by lending flip-chart power to the familiar interface of PowerPoint.
Advantage #1: You Can’t Overload a Flip Chart with Data
Whether you’re using pre-prepared flip-chart pages or writing each new page by hand on the spot, there’s just no way to cram in a dozen bullet points or lengthy excerpts. There simply isn’t room for all those words on the page—not if you want your audience to be able to read it from several feet away.
It’s simple to transfer this concept to the creation of a PowerPoint slide. For each slide you create, just imagine writing out the text by hand before a live audience. If you’re groaning at the thought of hand-lettering the information on your slide, then it’s a guarantee that your audience will be groaning when that slide flashes onto the screen in the presentation room.
By the way, this works for charts and diagrams, too. If your data is so complex that it would be hard to reproduce by hand on a flip chart, then it doesn’t belong on a PowerPoint slide. Use simplified visuals in your presentation, and reserve the complicated stuff for handouts.
Advantage #2: No Snoozing — The Lights-On Approach
This advantage is simple, but tremendously important. When you turn off the lights to begin a PowerPoint presentation, your audience will slump in their chairs and shift into movie-watching mode. But with a flip-chart presentation, audiences are more likely to lean forward and watch intently, because the lights stay on and the focus stays on the presenter.
How can you incorporate flip-chart energy into PowerPoint? First, keep the lights on (or dim them just enough to make the screen visible, but not entirely). Second, the presenter should stand adjacent to the screen, rather than seated behind a laptop on the opposite side of the room.
Advantage #3: Flip Charts Give Power to the Speaker, Not the Screen
A flip-chart presentation is interactive, not static. Presenters who actively interact with the flip chart and with the audience are storytellers who allow the information to unfold piece by piece. With a flip chart, you are the presentation.
The good news is that subjecting audiences to “death By PowerPoint” is a choice… and you have other options. There are plenty of ways to make PowerPoint engaging and interactive. See the Slideshop blog for tips and techniques to put the power back in PowerPoint.