Your PowerPoint Is Not Your Presentation

By Laura Bergells on

“May I have a copy of your PowerPoint presentation?” asks an audience member.

“What for?” I ask.

“So that I can look at it later.”

“Is there something I said that isn’t clear? Do we need to go back?” I ask.

“No, no. Great presentation. I just want a hard copy.”

“Well, no,” I answer. “My PowerPoint slides are my props. They’re not my presentation.”

OK, I don’t actually say that last bit.

I often want to, but I don’t! Instead, I usually say,

“I’m glad you liked the presentation. But public speaking is a part of my livelihood, and I give this presentation multiple times, in multiple venues. I don’t want the presentation floating around the internet. I’m sure you understand. But tell you what, after about six months or so, I’ll probably be done giving this presentation, so if you want to leave me your card…”

Seriously. Be a polite audience member. Never, ever ask a presenter for his or her presentation. (Not unless the presenter offers it to the audience as a download or CD or print out first. I sometimes do this after a 6 month run.)

If you like my presentation, I’m flattered. Really.

But my PowerPoint slides are usually props for my speech.

Would you go up to a juggler and ask, “Neat act! May I have your balls?”


Creative Commons License photo credit: Ladonite

OK, maybe you would!

But if you’ve been paying attention and taking notes during a speech or presentation, you won’t need the PowerPoint presentation. Really.

So don’t ask!

In fact, I often design stand-up presentations so that they are complete gibberish if someone looks at the slides only. Without my narrative and personality, the PowerPoint presentation usually won’t make much sense. It won’t help the viewer in any possible way.

I suspect that most people ask because they like the presentation. I also suspect they have personal or psychological problems! Like pack rats, they like to collect useless things. Or that they want to get all CSI on how I might have programmed an animation. Or they might be lazy and want to rip off a graph — or cut, copy, paste a factoid or graphic — instead of re-create it themselves.

But know this: to a presenter, it’s not one bit flattering when an audience member asks for a hard copy of the presentation. It signals they weren’t paying attention.

Instead, a thoughtful, polite audience member might ask, “Could you please show us the slide with X on it again? There were a few numbers on it that I’d like to reference…” or something that’s slightly less offensive than asking for the entire presentation.

Really, if you’re a happy audience member, find another way to show appreciation. Applause is always appreciated.

Also: be a presenter with balls. If someone asks for your presentation, learn to tell them no.

Maybe then, well-intentioned audience members will learn to quit asking!

(PS — How do you tactfully tell an audience member, “NO!”)