Most everyone who speaks and presents information today has their own stories to tell about using PowerPoint. I have personally wrestled with its use over a several year learning curve and so found it very interesting to find a book addressing the subject from the point of view of a leader. But the book is about so much more than PowerPoint. Actually, arguments about PowerPoint are only an entry point and one illustration for discussing a more fundamental and crucial topic. Mr. Witt’s real focus is on the intersection of leading and speaking. How are the public utterances of leaders different from those of teachers or managers or project participants? The difference, Witt says, is that “other people may speak to communicate information” but the leader speaks:
To identify—to tell audiences who they are and who they can become.
To influence—shape the way audiences think and feel.
To inspire—make audiences want to act. (p. 19)
The book is full of red-hot tips for improving our speaking and leading. For example in the fourth chapter, Can Charisma be caught? there is a side bar that gives three key suggestions on how to make ourselves “more attractive to audiences and project a more commanding presence:”
Be in the moment
Be interested (p. 35)
He challenges leaders to be creative and different in their communications. “Your goal is to change the audience in some way—to change how they see the world or their place in it, to change what they think they’re capable of, to change the reasons why they do what they do. So your message can’t be the same old same old” (p. 38).
He answers the key question that every speaker needs to answer before every speech. Why should my audience listen? Mr. Witt assures speakers that people will listen if we help them see how they can “solve a problem of theirs…achieve a goal of theirs…satisfy a need of theirs” (pp. 69,70)
So what about PowerPoint? “It is best suited for presenting information, not for influencing or inspiring an audience” (p. 211). PowerPoint also “hogs people’s attention…as a leader, you don’t want to be upstaged. You want people to look at you.” (p. 212,213).
This book is well written, easy to read, and contains numerous very practical tips for speakers and leaders. Many are listed in convenient sidebar format. The author’s leadership perspectives are insightful and helpful and his understanding of how the purposes of a leader need to inform his/her speaking style is profound. This is a great read for pastors and for business and political leaders and for anyone else who makes their living at the intersection of leading and speaking. I highly recommend it.