Death by Powerpoint – alive and well

This comes from Cathy Nelson who is a library luminary, she writes Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts.  In a recent post she cites Michael Zimmer’s 25 page guide to presenting in PowerPoint.  Check his presentation website here.   This comes on the heels of a discussion at lunchtime today with a friend and my partner, about the perils of PowerPoint.  Our staff were tortured at a PD session on Friday by three typical presentations where the presenters read the slides, which were bullet point ridden and full of text.  Each of the three presenters is well respected in their field and one works for the Ministry of Education and is on the research team of John Hattie, educational researcher of great import.  So, why where their presentations boring.  At this point I should probably confess to not actually being there for these presentations but having heard about them from several different people who were there.  Why are people still presenting – and especially to fairly IT savvy audiences in such a boring and uninteractive way?  As Cathy Nelson would say  ‘Sit ‘n get’ presentations, i.e. you are going to sit and get my presentation delivered to you.

On Monday my friend Miriam Tuohy, library goddess  (she of the marvelous Roasting Dish Chocolate Cake), presented a Prezi to a bunch of teachers as part of an ICTPD Cluster Meeting.  The difference between the presentations is very marked. Miriam’s presentation engaged the brain, augmented the talk she was giving and was a tool to promote discussion.  It was not a sit in your seat while I read the bullet points on the screen to you kind of talk.

Earlier this year our school had Tony Ryan speak to us as part of our school’s ICT PD, who presented in PowerPoint but with nary a bullet point to be seen, and he managed to hold a bunch of skeptics attention for an hour, the difference between his and the normal presentation in this format was that his presentation used photographs as hooks for his important points.  So, it is possible to be engaging in a presentation using PowerPoint, but please don’t torture your audience by a) reading the slides and b) not engaging in discussion or being prepared to discuss the issues that your slides or talk raise.  If you are going to raise a point you have to be prepared to talk about it.

I spoke in Hamilton on advocacy for your school library earlier this year, and although I did try to avoid the bullet points, I know there were plenty in there.  So in the ‘note to self section’, the next time I am asked to present somewhere – should the occasion arise – I am going to note the points raised by Cathy Nelson and take note of Tony Ryan and Miriam and do a better job.  For starters I’m going to have a go at moving my current advocacy presentation into Prezi and tweaking it a little and see if that helps avoid the bullet point problem.

Here is Cathy Nelson’s video post about presenting.


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