RE: PowerPoint advice

Subject: RE: PowerPoint advice
From: "HALL Bill" <bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 09:02:32 +1000 (EST)

Shauna I. says,

I've noticed something in practice that doesn't seem to have appeared in
this thread: The use of Powerpoint presentations as online
(e.g., through an intranet), _in_lieu_ of a spoken presentation.

I'm not expressing an opinion here on the use and abuse of Powerpoint,
just making an observation in the hope of seeing whether anyone else has
noticed this practice, what they think of it, and how they believe it
would affect the usage guidelines expressed here so far.


Bill replies,

I use PP extensively (I am stuck with it because it's a house standard I
don't control) in a variety of circumstances ranging from academic
lectures and conference presentations to sales and marketing exercises.
The minimalist view of what you should put on a slide is fine if you are
only speaking, but I tend to design my slide sets so they are able to
stand alone as take-home presentations and convey meaning long after the
specific words spoken have been forgotten. I explain the philosophy at
the outset and then talk about the slides rather to them.

The comments on using standard house style layouts, titles, legible type
fonts and so on are all extremely important. I also try to liberally mix
relevant pictures and diagrams with purely textual slides to provide
some variety - tending towards gentle multimedia to avoid boring people
with just text and more text.

Where possible I use speaker's notes to carry detailed information to
simplify on-screen presentation, but in many circumstances conference
organisers insist on printing proceedings 3 or 6 slides to the page or
the publisher to a Web environment won't follow instructions to post the
notes version to the Web. In this situation I still think it is
important to show the same slides that you are providing as a takeaway,
so more information than is ideal for a purely spoken presentation may
be put on the slide. I have also ended up in the situation where someone
else has to present the sides - and again, content is lost if the points
are too terse. However, in my own presentations I may also skip showing
the more complex slides, reminding the audience that I am doing so - but
that the material is there if they want to drill down later.

I don't claim to be a champion presenter, but I am comfortable with the
presentation style I use and can speak more naturally and
conversationally about the slides than if I try to punctiliously go
through each dot point on each slide. Sometimes the approach works well
enough that students in evening lectures stay awake and clap at the end,
and then hang around to talk about the ideas later. Monash SIMS seems to
be down today, but the lecture slides may be publicly available when the
site is up: see
hKMLecturePT1.pdf and

I've also had the situation where a conference organiser had me speaking
for an hour and a half to an audience that weren't interested in my
subject. Slides don't help there, the only thing that can save that kind
of situation is massive personal charisma and the ability to tell good
jokes - both of which I lack.

Again, PP is just a tool. To some degree it constrains what you can do
with it, but it is what you do with the tool that is important, not the
tool itself.

Bill Hall

Documentation Systems Analyst
Strategy and Development
Tenix Defense
Williamstown, Vic. 3016
Phone: 03 9244 4820
Email:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com

Honorary Research Fellow
Knowledge Management Lab
School of Information Management & Systems
Monash University
Caulfield East, Vic. 3145
Phone: 03 9903 1883
Email: william -dot- hall -at- infotech -dot- monash -dot- edu -dot- au


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