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Answer to common public speaking questions:

  • “Should I use slides or not to use during my speaking, and how many is a good number?”
  • “How much technology should I incorporate?”

00:00 Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. From speeches to job interviews to deal-closing pitches, how to guarantee a standing ovation for all the performances in your life. This is Friday Fan Mail, common and comical public speaking questions and answers. You have questions, I’ve got the answers and if you like the answers, head on over to and check out all of the bonuses I give you when you buy the book, Steal the Show, content creation and storytelling templates, tickets to live events around the country, public speaking video documentaries and online training programs and much, much more. My goal in life is to delight and entertain you and to help you think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world.

00:48 Today’s question comes from Sam Gottler in Minnesota. Hi, Sam. Sam asks, “Should I use PowerPoint and if so, how many slides should I have?” I’ll take the second part of that question first. There isn’t one number of slides. There isn’t a formula for it because you’re creating art. You really are, even if it’s a presentation on accounting principles. There is creativity underlying your entire presentation or at least I hope there is, so there is no formula for a number of slides. That’s first off. Now with that said, when I do master classes for A-list speakers, professional speakers, I work with, of course, people who are not professional speakers, but I also work with the highest level professional speakers and when I have six of them in one of my master classes for three days, there are hundreds of slides that are dead on the cutting room floor by the time I’m done with them and they are often surprised.

01:57 What I want you to do when you’re creating your presentations is to work on them without any slides to create visuals after the fact. Now you might note that you think a visual may help in a particular place or there’s a video that you wanna use to demonstrate a particular idea or concept. You note that in the material as you’re creating it but what often people do is they create their speeches around a PowerPoint so they put the PowerPoint together first. They’ll take some quotes and an image and usually, they’re the same quotes that most people use and an image that’s a stock image that you might have seen before or it’s a series of bullet points or graphs and the danger of doing this is that you might constrain your performance to fit inside those slides.

02:51 Additionally, what you might do is use those slides as the primary focus of your presentation rather than supportive of your presentation and so if you put what needs… What the audience needs to know on those slides, there really isn’t any reason for you to be there you could just give them the slides so you’re creating a performance, a show, so to speak, even if this is a corporate presentation where you’re talking about the changes in a new division. You’ve gotta get them excited about it, connected to it, intellectually stimulated by it. They’ve gotta be able to consume it. So it’s not just a sharing of information because you can do that over the corporate intranet. So what I want you to do is first create the material.

03:37 Now in Steal the Show in part three, I have a very comprehensive outline on exactly how you should create content and in fact, if you go to and purchase the book, you can also get for free templates that you can use to create your content. Now it’s gonna constrain you it’s gonna give you a way in because this is art. It really is. I can’t express that strongly enough so it’s gonna give you a way in and then you start adding visuals to it but you need generally need fewer than you might imagine.

04:20 You also wanna get to the point where you can deliver your presentation without any visuals whatsoever, because sometimes those visuals will go down and that’s happened to me numerous times. In fact, I got a job, I got a keynote for Coldwell Banker at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, it was one of the highlights of my speaking career. Because I was giving a speech at a small event that my friend, Chris Brogan, put on and the slides went out in the middle of it and I didn’t think twice, I just threw the remote on the stage and kept going. And just so happened that the persons in charge of booking all of the speakers for Coldwell Banker was there in the audience and he said, “I’ve never seen anybody do that.” And I said to him, “I’m sure there’s lots of other speakers who’ve done that flawlessly. You just haven’t seen them yet. Maybe I’m just the first that you’ve seen so there’s got to be others out there.”

05:16 But I’ve also seen professional speakers get very, very, very frustrated and very anxious when something goes wrong with the technology because they can’t carry on without that technology. So you need to be able to make sure that you can deliver the speech without any technology whatsoever and then of course, I’m platform-agnostic. It doesn’t matter which platform you use, PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etcetera. It’s how you use it that counts, so to use PowerPoint or not to use PowerPoint is not the question. The question is, how can you use it to add value to the presentation to make it better? And if it doesn’t make it that much better, don’t use it. If you’re using it as a crutch, so you don’t have to do the work as the performer, don’t use it. But if you can find a way to use visuals to make the performance stronger, please do.

06:12 Don’t think just about slides. You want, of course, to think about moving images, video. You wanna think about audio. In my Think Big Revolution keynote, which you can see at, there’s a 16 minute excerpt at I use a lot of audio. In fact, I have sections of the keynote where I talk to voices that come out of the speakers. Not as in a “I’m crazy, you-should-be-in-a-padded-cell” kind of conversation, but instead of telling the audience about a particular concept, I show them.

06:51 So, at the opening of the keynote, I start the presentation and then my phone rings. But the phone ringing is coming out of the speakers. So immediately, they can tell it’s a device. And I say, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed, this has never happened before.” And I answer the phone. And when I answered the phone I said, “I’m sorry, listen, I gotta call you back. I’m just in the middle of something.” And this woman starts berating me, because I didn’t do something I said I was gonna do. And what I’m trying to do is demonstrate the importance of making commitments and fulfilling them. Instead of coming out and lecturing the audience on it, I use myself as the stooge to do a self deprecating scene with this woman on the phone and her voice comes through the speakers. And now, we’ve created a new experience, some sort of show for them to watch, rather than something that I’m going to tell them.

07:45 So, you wanna stay away when you’re giving speeches from saying, “Today, I’m gonna talk about this.” Because people don’t wanna be talked at, they want an experience, they want a show. And if you can use visual and auditory devices to make it better, then do it, but don’t build your show around the technology, build the technology around the show. But then, be able to deliver it without that technology.

08:14 So, if you like what I have to say, go ahead subscribe, leave a five star review. I don’t accept anything less than five star reviews. Thank you very much. Of course, I’m kidding. If you wanna give me a lower one, I’ll be sad, but I’ll understand. But a five star review would help people realize that they too have something to offer. That they too, can steal the show. That they too, can shine in the spotlight moments of their life, because that is something you can do, it is something I know you want to do, and I wanna help you do that. So, pick up a copy of Steal the Show. Go to, get your copy there along with free bonuses, public speaking video documentaries, online training programs, templates, tickets to live events around the country all for free, when you buy one or more copies of the book.

09:02 Thank you for your time and never take it for granted. Keep thinking big about who you are and what you are for the world. This is Michael Port signing off. Bye for now.