Switching media

For years, PowerPoint, or rather Keynote, Apple’s presentation software, have been an integral element of workshops and demos I have run. These programs are a powerful tool to convey content and concepts using text and images.

However, they can also send your audience to sleep in a matter of seconds. I can think of too many instances of dingily lit class rooms with underpowered projectors – and the audience bravely doing battle with slumber.

I have written about this before, but over the years I have returned to presentations time and again, considering what the key points are that I am trying to make – and rather than swamping people in content, attempting to whittle them down to the bare essentials.

In his book Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds proposes that a slide should never contain more than five words. OK, while that may be a bit over the top, and depending upon the content you are delivering this may be possible or not, I agree with the basic tenet: you need to decide on the tool you are working with. A presentation should employ mainly images and a few key words to back up your story. Slides full of words are not a presentation, they are a document. Print it off and give it to people to read – people reading their slides to their audience drives me nuts. And yes, I have been guilty of this myself in the past, I will be the first to admit.

Andertoons Cartoon

I will not even go into animated builds in slides: object swooshing, bouncing or scaling themselves onto the screen… brrrrr. Don’t go there. That road also leads to Death by PowerPoint!

Anyway, my intent in writing this post was not to sound off about PowerPoint like a grumpy old man, I still see it as a useful tool – in carefully measured doses. I have come to realize the wisdom of switching media, i.e. to keep things moving, interesting and interactive: use flip charts, whiteboards or exhibits to illustrate what you are talking about, keep people moving and on their toes…

This was a flip chart I used during a course last week to summarize what we had discussed during the day before:

I also actually simply enjoy working with paper and pens, as it is such a tactile experience – a bit like working in, on and around trees.

So please, should you ever catch me attempting to anesthetize you with a PowerPoint presentation, do not be shy to give me a gentle prod.