by Mar 27, 2008Uncategorized1 comment

My boss just defended his Ed.D. dissertation, and he hired me to produce a slick visual presentation to accompany it. (I had to make it real small to fit on the blog; sorry!) We did some real thinking about transitions and when to click. Apple’s Keynote makes that a very smooth, intuitive process.

But working multiple hours on this presentation also raised again a question I’ve had: Is “powerpoint” (used generically like “xerox” or “frisbee” or “kleenex”) really effective and helpful, or is it distracting? Well, I think it’s both, but most frequently the last! I have often thought my good teachers could do just as well or better if they weren’t tied to digital slides. And slides in a classroom encourage kids to write down everything on the slide… and nothing else.

So what should a digital slide presentation aim to do? Should it aim to provide an outline of the talk’s content? to add helpful visuals? to make visual jokes? to stress particular quotations?

I watched a talk a few months ago that one powerpoint blog (yes, there are such things!) was touting. It had a lot of visuals that made little puns off of what the presenter was saying. The blog thought it was clever. I thought it was distracting.

Here are a few principles I picked up or extrapolated from a Microsoft book on PowerPoint:

  • Use slides to tell a story (if you watch my boss’s presentation, I especially applied this with his hammer throw illustration).
  • Use complete sentences.
  • Try to make each slide make sense on its own.
  • Read directly from your slides (and make slides that can be read from). If you use different wording people will wonder about the discrepancy. Use in front of your audience the same words you carefully crafted for your presentation.

I did a few other things I’ve decided to make principles for myself:

  • I limited transitions and eye candy and used mostly understated ones.
  • I used one kind of slide transition for each major section of the outline, using a doorway transition for the first slide in the section and a falling transition for the last.
  • I established a consistent color scheme and visual style.

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1 Comment
  1. dtjohnso

    Some of the most helpful ideas I’ve ever seen on powerpointing are in the book (and site) Beyond Bullet Points. He disagrees with the Microsoft philosophy on several key points.

    I heard about this stuff via this blog post.

    You can find both the books listed here at the Mack Library.