Death to “Death by Powerpoint”

prezenAs the semester gets fully into gear, the first hints of final projects and presentations start to take form. It is a good point to nip the “death by powerpoint” syndrome that turns up near the end of the semester, with a group of students presenting on class-related topics. We are all familiar with death by powerpoint, those boring text-laden bullet-pointed sets of slides that get those heads nodding and eyelids flagging.

The best antidote is not to use another tool (there are dozens out there, I teach ones like PreziPowToon and Google Drive Slides). The better solution is to think about presentations in a new way, one that works better with your brain. Learning is best when emotion is linked to the ideas, and powerpoint and image are great at eliciting motion. Video is even better. That is why your slides should have few words and be simple enough to allow people to concentrate on you, the presenter. All those details? Put them in a handout for after the presentation.

The best example of this approach to presenting is Garr Reynolds, with his Presentation Zen. A book, a video and a website give you an idea of what is involved, but a recent TEDx presentation is a 17-minute look at the psychology of presentations. Well worth the time. His references to Japanese culture help as metaphors.

He also has a 4-page text outline (pdf) of the steps and ideas you should try to convey to your students while they work on their presentations.


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