Saturday, February 02, 2008

[TIPS] Everyone's a critic

You can't swing a cat without hitting on an article that will either condem PowerPoint, make fun of it, or tell you how everyone abuses it and nobody does it right. So, when you're faced with having to use it and you've been reading those articles, you might tend to panic - as I did. OK... No bullets. Fine. No goofy animations - no problem. The message is the point. Less is better. The slides support your point - they don't beat your audience about the head with it. DON'T YOU KNOW?? ARRRGHHHHHH!
At last year's NECC conference, Nicholas Negropante made the off-hand comment, "I hate powerpoint" - and the audience applauded. EVERYONE hates it! But, truth be told, 95% of those folks use PowerPoint, and if we had the audience rate each other's powerpoints, I'd be shocked if more than 10% of them would have passed muster. The larger point is that when you have to give a presentation to a group of learned tech folks, the pressure is ON. Everyone is going to be looking at this PPT with the notion (in the back of their minid, at least) that, "Here's another guy who doesn't know how to make a good powerpoint." No matter what we did, it would likely meet with geers and sneers from a large group who "knows" that it wasn't good, although they may not be able to make a better one.
So, I'm going to admit up front that I only know what I know. I THINK that my powerpoints only have that which is necessary to support my talk. I THINK that it's void of the bullet traps, and the animation traps, and the ugly colors traps. I THINK I'm getting better. The one I had for NECC last year embarasses me when I think of it,but I THINK I'm getting better.
Bottom line, if you are at a presentation of mine where I use a Powerpoint (Keynote, actually) and you think it was awful, PLEASE tell me how to improve it. Give specifics. Take the talk and YOU make the slides. Then we'll run it by a dozen people and see how many agree that YOUR version is not only better but a model for presentations everywhere. I don't think it'll happen. Everyone's a critic.


jenny said...

Thanks for this post Jim. It's exactly how I feel about powerpoint. I find myself getting nervous about how I present my information and whether or not criticism is going to be levelled at me because I'm supposed to know a thing or two about technology. It's reassuring to know that someone like you feels the same way.
Just a further comment to thank you for the tips you post. I find them very helpful and have referred to them in my blog often.

Jaron's Tech Page said...

It is funny - the only time I have used a PowerPoint is when I do a presentation for the board. It is a perfectly acceptable devise for a presentation to a group of people. (Hey, it might be funny to show up with some over head transparencies!!!)

I never used PowerPoint to teach. But then, I rarely used the overhead projector back in the day. I now use Moodle when I teach. All my links are there; all my samples are there; all my documentation is there. I taught a grad class that way (we were able to have two virtual classes by the end of the semester because they had gotten used to Moodle.)

I think that the frustration comes the idea that "Hey I integrate - I'm using PowerPoint." It is a valid tool - it just gets over-used. Unlike Moodle, however, it doesn't need an Internet connection!

Ken Rodoff said...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Someone told me that once.

Working with seniors and now 8th Graders, I've found that for students, PP is nothing more than a projected stack of note cards. I think I've just stated something totally new!!!

Okay, so students know the message, the story, the content, but asking them to create a visual reinforcement for an audience that (1)doesn't know the topic, or (2) doesn't care about it, is tough business.

But, having sat in on presentation after presentation, I'm often left asking, 'why did that presenter need PP?'

If someone is presenting about RSS feeds, why would that person need PP? Wouldn't screen-shots sell the presentation?

I ask students, why are you making that slide?

Often, they don't have an answer.

Then, I ask the teacher, why are you having them make slides?

Often, they just hand me their assignment sheet.

It's an uphill battle, no doubt.

There's no perfect slide and there's no perfect presentation.

And yes, everyone's a critic. We wouldn't advance ourselves if everyone just applauded.

Jim Gates said...

LOL, Ken. I suppose you're right. If they all just applauded then we'd never know we stunk up the joint. Maybe if I had said, "Everyone has an opinion." Would that have been better?

I think we can all recognize one that REALLY sucks the air from the room. But, as we move towards that theoretical "Perfect" presentation, the lines between UGLY...POOR...FAIR...GOOD, etc blur and everyone has his/her own opinion as to where those lines should be drawn.

Kurt Paccio said...

There is one individual who seems to get presentations right... Mr. Jobs. What do his presentations look like?

I once attended a session on presentation research. The suggestion? No text. Full screen pictures only that clearly illustrate your point.

For what it´s worth.