Thursday, 28 February 2008

Good and bad Powerpoint

There are people who hate Powerpoint because it leads to boring talks (see Death by Powerpoint). I think it's more likely that boring talkers lead to boring talks, but certainly getting the best from it as a presentation medium takes a bit of work.

Is Powerpoint the right format? Why not just talk? Or use slides? Do you have time to put it together? If you're in a hurry, concentrate on deciding what you're going to say, not what it looks like.

Some people like to write out a talk in full and then read it out. This is less effective than a well-executed extempore talk, but much better than a bad one. If you are nervous, read. Reading a text is skill: the key rules are to slow down, leave spaces, leave room for asides that occur to you at the time, and make sure that it is written as a talk: pompous prose sounds terrible when read out.

Almost all talks end up too long. Ideally your planned presentation should run for 75% of the time you have been given: this will allow you to add stuff as you go along. There is a persistent belief that a talk that runs for 40 minutes when practised the night before can magically turn into a 20 minute talk on the day. It can't. If you don't want to run out of time halfway through your second point, you will need to prune the introduction drastically.

If you are going to use Powerpoint, you need to think about delivery. One of the reasons that Powerpoint presentations end up dull is because the speaker talks to the screen with their back to the audience, or sits at the side or the back of the hall. This means that they lose eye contact with their audience and cannot project their voices. You should (if given the choice) stand at the front, facing the audience, to one side of the screen, so that you can see people and they can see you. Be careful if you turn towards the screen or move away from a microphone, because you won't be heard. Your posture should be relaxed so that your voice can resonate, rather than stiff. If you have the slightest inclination to nervously jangle your keys or coins while you talk, it is a good idea to empty your pockets beforehand.

Use F5 Slideshow and the space bar to advance: if you use the mouse you will be trying to use that rather than paying attention to the audience.

I have compiled some advice on content in a Powerpoint Go to Slideshare to see the presentation.

This link might work too:

Sources for sign generators:
Sign generator (book covers)
RedKen (alphabet soup)
Hetemeel (Einstein)
Atom Smasher (computer error messages)
ImageGenerator (MS Office paperclip)

Powerpoint when well-used can be a very effective tool, so it's worth spending some time on.

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