Recently I had the priviledge of sitting in on a talk by Mr. UnMarketing himself, Scott Stratten, hosted by the Connecticut chapter of the American Marketing Association. If you don't know him, you should - he's kind of a big deal on Twitter. I drove through rain and crazy amounts of traffic for two hours (each way) just for the opportunity to hear him talk about his new book, aptly titled UnMarketing (seriously...I didn't do it just for the iPad raffle and free drink ticket, I swear). I'll have a review of the book up very soon, along with a free UnMarketing book to give away so keep an eye out.
So let me be the first PowerPoint presentation designer to say this - You don't NEED PowerPoint to give an effective, passionate, engaging presentation. Don't get me wrong - I do believe that when used correctly, using visual aids like PowerPoint/Keynote, Prezi, charts, and props can add great value to your presentation and make it even more memorable - however I'm not going to be closed minded enough to claim that PowerPoint or any other specific visual aid is a necessity.
Now on to Scotts talk...
Dressed far more casually that the marketing professionals surrounding him, Scott simply took a seat and started a conversation with the audience. He used no notes because he spoke from the heart. He spoke with passion. This is content he knows inside and out because he lives and breathes it in his everyday business. He doesn't need to plaster bullet-points on a slide so he won't forget a "mission critical value proposition." Everytime he speaks, I'm sure there are certain things he wants to mention but forgets. Who cares? We're not perfect, and forgetting one or two things isn't the end of the world.
Scott told stories - lots of them. The audience was glued to every word because they knew they'd gain a nugget of knowledge with every story they heard. He welcomed questions at any time, which is very important. Without audience interaction, it's a speech, not a presentation. Effective presentations must be two-way streets.
It was a quick, enjoyable 90 minutes. That's just a guess (the time), because I have no idea how long he spoke. I never looked at a clock. Afterwards Scott stayed to sign every book, answer every question, and talk with every audience member who wanted to talk to him. I know this because we walked out together while the only two people remaining, the gracious hosts, packed up.
Presentations are experiences. Visuals can enhance them (when used properly, not Death by PowerPoint) but aren't totally necessary. Like Scott, Gary Vaynerchuck gives amazing, passionate talks with no visuals. Garr Reynolds, Steve Jobs, and even Al Gore have given incredible presentations with PowerPoint and Keynote. It's not a right/wrong issue.
Your visuals are not the presentation. Your notes are not the presentation. YOU are the presentation. Be passionate, have great content, practice, and appreciate your audience. Those are the only prerequisites you really need to deliver a great presentation.