Friday, March 07, 2014

PowerPoint or Pointless

As a classroom teacher, I didn't use PowerPoint a lot, not because I couldn't, but because it was such a static medium.  I used the old fashioned overhead that allowed me to write, draw, and design visuals that followed the conversation we were having.  However, at times, PowerPoint was very relevant and I especially wanted to teach my students how to leverage PowerPoint to their advantage, and not stumble, like so many do, into creating slides with too much text and spending too much time reading their slides to the audience.

However, as an academic, I'm frequently speaking to large audiences in spaces that typically encourage, if not require, some sort of visual presentation.  Several years ago, I participated in a PechaKucha night and it was a revelation of what PPT could inspire.  Since then, I've had the pleasure of experiencing a few professional speakers and researchers who use PPT to strategically  illustrate points and/or reinforce the mood/tone of their speech, rather than provide the entire text of their speech.

Rebecca Schuman takes on the pointlessness of PPT in higher education with her entertaining and informative presentation PowerPointless: Digital slideshows are the scourge of higher education.  It blithely highlights the horrible habits we have all gotten into when using PPT and exposes what our students really feel about our use of text-heavy, dull, and outdated presentations. As she states, mid-way through her presentation, "A presentation, believe it or not, is the opening move of a conversation - not the entire conversation."

Although I continue to create presentations for conferences, I hope that my move toward the use of graphics and strategic selection of quoted data helps build the audience engagement in what I'm presenting.  A little later in her presentation, Schuman states, "If your audience can understand everything it needs to from your slides only . . . cut 50% of the slides and 90% of the text."  In other-words, if the slideshow can be read like a book, what's the point of me standing in front of you speaking?  You could read it on your own time!

What do you think?