An annual conference that we participate in included the following stipulation for the 2010 event:


N.B - One important change this year is "No Powerpoint" - Many of you will know that there is an increasing view that maybe Power Point has its limitations and mostly we are tired of sitting though this kind of presentation. This year, the presenters will be given a white board and a flip chart. We think this will be a refreshing and welcome change for engineers. More importantly, we think this will raise the quality of the presentation, as each presenter will need to create the presentation afresh rather than relying on past sales presentation material and often material they have never seen before. A little scary - but a necessary change to make sure we keep engineers coming back. 

Could this be the start of a trend? Do you think that this will improve the quality of presentations? More importantly what pitfalls would a presenter need to avoid in this kind of environment?




tlhausmann's picture
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I use a *small* number of index cards in lieu of PowerPoint in small group settings or circumstances like you describe. If it is a stand-up presentation I'll keep the cards in my suit pocket until I need them for the presentation (no large sheets of paper to shuffle.)  If I am sufficiently rehearsed then I need only to glance down occasionally.

The disadvantage to this approach is when I am asked to provide copies of my notes to colleagues. My notes are typed into a Word template I created splitting an 8.5 x 11 page into four large cells--(each cell then can be cut out and glued to an index card.)  So my colleagues have to deal with a document formatted into four large quadrants when I email it.

The *advantage* to this approach, I find, is that the audience or group is more interactive than when using PowerPoint. It seems that when the data-video projector fires up the audience becomes more passive as if the presentation is supposed to be a lecture.

MT has several helpful podcasts about effective presentations. One of which is . The MT guidance is no more than 10 PPT slides for an hour long meeting--so If I am giving a 15 minute briefing then I stick with 3-4 index cards.

bug_girl's picture

A shorter version of Ed Tufte's book is available as an article at Wired:

"Power Corrupts.
PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely."

He pretty much nails it, imho.  Tufte is a statistician by training.

You might find some inspiration from looking at some of the TED talks--they have a FEW backing images, but mostly it's about words and ideas.

A link to my friend Dennis talking about bees:

jhack's picture


Interesting.  Are you going to be a presenter?  

Would love to hear from you after the conference, whether you think things were improved by this or not.  

I imagine this would only work for smaller audiences.  If you had 1500 people in the audience, a flip chart would be impossible unless it were projected onto a large screen.  

The quality of a presentation is mostly due to the presenter, not the technology.  An unprepared speaker using a flip chart could be painful.  This approach might, however, induce presenters to be more prepared - that is where the benefit would come from.  

John Hack

coombes's picture

Hi John, 

I have yet to discover if we'll get an invitation to talk at this event. We have in some previous years. The event won't be until next may.

I agree with you about the audience size. For this event, I expect the audiences will be in the region of 50-100.

Even if I'm not presenting, I'm intrigued enough to visit the event. My suspicion is that the this style of presentation will make the distinction between "prepared" and "not prepared" even larger than "normal" (i.e. with Power Point) presentations.


ashdenver's picture

Is a presenter allowed to bring a prepared flip-chart with them?  For instance, if I have a visual I want to relate with the structure of a process diagrammed, can that already be on the chart?  Could I have one page that has PRO vs. CON and a T-chart drawn on it to get things started so I can take comments from the audience?  

I ask because if these types of preparations are NOT allowed, oh dear - I fear for these presentations.  BIG time.  People write sloppily when they feel pressured and I've seen some of the flip-charts the Sales group leaves behind.  Their excitement level makes for excellent chicken-scratch in multiple colors of markers.

I've also seen our Trainers use flip-charts quite effectively, especially when they ARE allowed to prepare adequately with the flip-chart ahead of time.

Honestly though, I prefer Power Points over flip-charts.  Some people don't write legibly and others don't know how to spell even simple words correctly.  At least PP offers some clarity and professionalism.

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

mmann's picture
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About a decade ago I was on a team presenting a response to an RFP.  Shortly after we started our delivery the bulb burnt out on the projector we had brought.  The team stood dumbfounded in front of the prospective client for several seconds, not sure what to do, as the realization came to us that we would lose this account.

The Partner of the team calmly uncrossed his legs, walked to the front of the room, pulled a flip-chart forward and proceeded to deliver the entire presentation, quickly sketching images of the charts and graphics that would have been rendered perfectly in our deck.

At dinner that night we complimented him on his delivery.  He shrugged it off with, "That's the way we used to do it all the time."

We were awarded the engagement the next day.  

The image of him standing there, confidently presenting with only a flip chart and a single marker is burned into my brain.



jhbchina's picture

MMann's story is the perfect advertisement for Toastmasters. There is another forum discussion about this 100 year old plus non-profit organization. Most presentations done at the club are without PPT.

Back in August, I was asked to be the English translator for a reception of about 150 guests for one of the top 3 hotels in town. I received the material in Chinese, with less than two days to prepare. There would be no using a screen and PPT slides. After working with an associate to translate the text to English, I then spent a couple of hours reviewing the material for the 1 hour presentation.

My Toastmasters experience taught me to be prepared. Two hours before the start, I found a quite place, and as tlhausmann so astutely suggests, I made notes on 3X5 cards and stuck them in my pocket.

My Chinese co-host was nervous as ever, I was as cool as a cucumber on this hot night in China. She looked at me and said, "Where are your lines", and I pointed to my head. When the event started, she was reading her full page notes before the audience. Every now and then I glanced at my cue cards.

Then in the middle of one section, one of the other Chinese presenters threw a curve ball and changed his lines without notice. Without missing a cue, I just translated on the fly. After the event, several Chinese came up to me and complimented me on my Chinese skills, for I had gotten the translation right!

Had I not been a Toastmaster for so long, who know what would have happened. As Chinese say " One minute of success takes 10 years of work". I recommend those of you that can't make a presentation without a PPT side to join Toastmasters. It will be the cheapest, highest, ROI you can make for your career development.

JHB "00"

dad2jnk's picture

I have taken to discarding Powerpoint because it encourages the worst habits of presenting:  too much detail, and reading slides.

I have found that when presenting to executives, lose the data and focus upon the concepts.  A Powerpoint slide has sooo much beautiful white space crying for something (anything) to fill it up.  The temptation is too great.  A white board or flip chart forces you to present concepts and ideas.

A slide deck is too often a crutch for the weakly prepared.  How many 1:00 pm presentations have you slept through because the presenter was reading the content word for word.......?  Be bold enough to engage the audience your executives will notice your ideas and not slip into a slide-coma.  Don't be afraid if you make a small slip during the presentation.  The audience will be so impressed that it will be excused.

Good luck!  I hope it went well.

All the best, dad2jnk (Ken)