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Paul

Have you taken the Powerpoint Pledge?

 

At the end of the truly excellent "Death by Powerpoint" session by Debbie Syrop and James Piercy from Science Made Simple, delegates were required to solemnly take the Powerpoint Pledge to no longer abuse this audio-visual device in our presentations. We may not have had our resolve tested yet, but I would urge all of us to remain steadfast. We must turn to each other in support when we weaken and attempt to bash out our next bullet-point strewn, clip-art-infested slideshow.  Instead sit quietly in the corner away from the computer, and remember the Presentation Zen path to communication wisdom (www.presentationzen.com). Less is more.

 

I struggled for years in an agony of conscious incompetence with my powerpoint presentations. I knew inside there was a better way, but still I resisted and told myself lies, such as, "the audience will never notice the difference", "seeing the words will reinforce what I say", "how can I remember what to say unless I put all the key points on the screen?"  

 

Yes, this approach takes longer to prepare presentations.

Yes, this approach means you have to know your presentation much better in order to deliver it with confidence.

But this approach also shows your audience that you respect them and that you actually care about how well they understand your message.

 

So go out there and spread the word - there is another, non-lethal, way to use powerpoint. But the process of changing your powerpoint habits is a bit like the chain-smoker who becomes an anti-smoking zealot. Remember there may be many presenters out there who are still using the lethal version, but who desperately want to change, and be sensitive in your critique of their slideshows.

6 Comments

For those that missed it.
It's not too late to take the pledge
Put your hand on a copy of Presentation Zen and say in a clear and solemn tone

I {state your name}, hereby pledge that I will do my best to reduce my crimes against the audience.

I reject the transition and the animation

I cast out the clip art

And turn my back on the bullet point

From this day forward my slides will work with me, and the B key will be my friend.

I have heard good things about this session, but missed it, sadly. Did you end up with any 'top tips' for us?

Speaking as someone who avoids Powerpoint in order to miss falling into the murky chasms of dreadfulness, some pointers would be good.

Also, is the video available anywhere? I heard it was great.

I wish I'd seen this session too – too many good things to go to.

I'm a bit nervous about blanket 'Power corrupts, Powerpoint corrupts absolutely' types of mantra. As a rule of thumb, 'don't use Powerpoint' is better than 'Tell your audience what you're going to tell them, show them in Powerpoint, tell them while you're showing them, then give them a slide summarising what you've told them and read that slide out.' And I've certainly been guilty of bad animation choices, too.

But I've also used animation to, say, build up layers on an otherwise over-complex graphic, or to mark transitions during an awards show, or... you get the idea. This stuff isn't inherently evil, it's simply used in an evil manner.

So I get frustrated when the anti-Powerpoint dogma goes so far as to mandate no visual aids at all. Thanks, Café Scientifique: giving a talk on science TV without being able to show any video was plain ridiculous.

As Paul notes, there is a better way. But that better way may still involve Powerpoint. Or Keynote.

Absolutely. There are no hard and fast rules about this. Slideware can be really useful. Hell we used video and slides extensively in the session.
I guess it's about recognising when it actually adds something.
My main idea was this.
Think about your slides as another kind of visual aid, a prop
a really heavy and bloody awkward prop.
Do you really want to carry it on the train to your meeting?
Is what it adds that valuable that you'ld be prepared to lug
something like a giant paperclip costume on the tube?

If the answer is yes and you're going to all that trouble it's worth taking a bit of time to get the most out of it

Powerpoint pledge - if powerpoint is defined a a bunch of slides with tedious bullet points then yes, I'll sign up to that. But as a resource through which I can enhance a discussion with visuals, video and other odds and ends then I'll keep using it. There are lots of bad exanples out there from so called experts at presentations. Four words bad, two pictures good.

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