But Wait, They Can See My Notes

Yesterday I wrote about some of the challenges that come from our listeners not being able to see our notes.  We preach orally, but tend to prepare in literary forms (manuscript, indented outlines, etc.)  I mentioned the issue of transitions – very different animals in spoken than in written communication.  I mentioned the need to indicate sense of progress, or purpose of illustration.  But wait, isn’t there a shortcut to circumvent this whole issue?

The Potential Powerpoint Shortcut – Wouldn’t it be better to just project your notes so they can follow along on a powerpoint sermon outline?  I would urge you not to make a projected outline your strategy to overcome these issues.  Your outline is for you.  If you use powerpoint, use it well (i.e. for images, minimal words, lots of blank screen, perfectly timed, etc.)

What Happens if You Powerpoint Your Outline? Projecting your outline will give the impression your primary goal is to educate and inform, it will spark frenzied note taking, it will cause people to try to memorize three sub-points rather than being marked by the one main point, it will distract from the deeper impact and applicational emphasis of your message.  What’s more, what is gained in visual communication via the screen is typically lost in visual communication and connection via the preacher.  It takes real skill to powerpoint in a connecting and engaging manner (a skill rarely found in ecclesial settings).

So I Should Never Use Powerpoint? Use powerpoint by all means, but usually not for your outline.  The outline is a skeleton, it is for you and it is for you to think through how to communicate as effectively as possible.  One of the first posts I wrote was entitled “What do you want them to remember – the outline?”

2 thoughts on “But Wait, They Can See My Notes

  1. I appreciate your cautions on the use of powerpoint. It would be useful to me for you to post an example or two of an effective use of powerpoint as you define it in this post. It does sometimes seem that the powerpoint can be a huge distraction when too much attention is given to pictures/illustrations, etc. I tend to use them to display the Scriptures and the main points of the message.

    • Hi Steve – sorry for the delay in posting your comment. This was, in part, because I was trying to figure out how to give an example of well used powerpoint. I have seen powerpoint used well in teaching, but honestly almost never in preaching. Now my experience is very limited since many Sundays I am preaching and so don’t listen to others as often as I might. In reference to your comment, I think I have posted recently about the issue of whether to project the main points of a message. As far as Scriptures are concerned, I know some advocate for only projecting other Scriptures, but not the main text (in order to encourage people to be looking at their own Bible, and seeing a passage in its context). I would think that if the message called for a series of other verses (which by default a message shouldn’t, but it is necessary on specific occasions), then it might be ideal to project these rather than have people fumbling through their Bibles trying to keep up and hearing / seeing nothing as a result.

      Powerpoint is a subjective issue, but I’m happy to share my thoughts on here to prompt other preachers in their thinking, even if they choose to do the opposite of what I think is ideal! Thanks for visiting the site.

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