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Thursday, May 10, 2007

PowerPoint - More Questions

Okay, I'm going to blame this on Karl Kapp, because in response to the LCB Big Question - PowerPoint: What is Appropriate? When and Why? - Karl created a presentation and a blog post that inspired me to revisit a presentation I recently gave and try to improve it using some of his suggestions (and a few others that I've recently read).

The presentation is aimed at folks who manage or are hands-on in the development of eLearning and it's designed to introduce them to eLearning 2.0 concepts and tools. I've given this talk a couple of times in various forms and I got really good reviews, but in going through and trying to improve the slides I found that I had more questions than I had answers. I'm hoping that I can get some help. Please.

1. Do I include an outline?

Guy Kawasaki generally does this thing where he numbers his points from 1-10 because he says that everyone wants to know how much longer the presentation is going to be. I think he says something along the lines of "If I suck, then you want to know how long I'm going to continue to suck."

I always like an outline because I'm often sitting there wondering if the person is going to get to a particular topic, or what the heck they are heading towards. Maybe that's just me.

But, I like to show the rough topics that I'm going to cover and sometimes even give a sense of how much time I'll spend on each. Not unlike what we do at the start of an eLearning course or the start of a class via a Syllabus showing topics over the course of weeks.

But, should I ditch this concept? Should I adopt Guy's approach?


I personally think that using quotes from other people provides tremendous value during a presentation. I sometimes will include a picture of the person (ex. Martin Luther King), or the book (The World is Flat). I try to strip down the quote to the most important parts or underline key phrases.

But if you look at the suggestions around using images, then it would seem that using quotes are problematic.

I also have always struggled with whether to pause to let people read the quote or read it myself to everyone - which I hate.

So, should I ditch quotes or use them? If so, how?

3. Time & Interaction

I'd love to spend more time on particular topics to have the audience recognize the change themselves, to enlist them to a greater extent in the talk, but since I'm driving to talk about something else, I feel compelled to treat things in a different way.

4. Lists of items

I personally have a hard time using only the verbal channel when someone is going through a list of items and discussing them. It's very helpful to me (just like the outline) to have some visual clue to the size and shape of the list. If you give me a picture and proceed to tell me the five important things on a particular topic, I'd wonder why you didn't try to give me the list. Now sometimes the exact list isn't important and it's more the overall message - then not showing the list is okay. But if the items are something you'd like people to retain, then do you should a list.

5. Handout vs. Slides

Audience members are often upset if your slides are different than your handouts. And heaven forbid if you've added a new slide with new content. I always offer to send it to people via email, but it's still frowned upon.

Several times I've provided more detailed handouts than my slides, but I find that the audience sits reading the handouts during the presentation and I lose interaction.

I've tried - I'll hand out details after, but that frustrates the audience because they aren't sure that the right notes will be in there. (And I have the same concern when I'm in the audience.)

So, what do you do?


Karl Kapp said...


Sorry to cause so much angst. I plan on posting more on this but today is graduation and it has been a hectic couple of days.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say that I think PowerPoint like other tools, needs balance, all of my slides are not pictures with no text...I don't think that would work.

Some of my slides even have (dare I say)...bullets. I think they can be useful...I just don't think they should be overused. As with everything...moderation.

If you look at my slides from a presentation I did last night Slides from Mid-NJ ASTD Meeting you will notice a mix of content on the slides. Some slides just have images, some have animations, some have call out boxes, some have quotes and some have links to other and such.

So, I think the trick to PowerPoint is a balance among all of the elements.

In terms of time vs. discussion...I think audiences always remember discussions more than slides but discussons take time, the goal I have for myself is to balance the two...have a good mix of discussion and interaction with the audience as well as providing them with content. Sometimes I am right on and sometimes...not so good.

I think putting togther a good presentation requires good choreography throughout the entire presentation. Just like movies don't have all action or all romance, the best ones mix...humor, action, drama, suspense.

Creating learning events requires the same idea. Mix the slides, the discussion, questions and presentation of information.

And finally, in terms of slide mom loves that slide:)


Clive Shepherd said...

I have a few suggestions:

(1) Yes, do include an outline, if by this you mean an agenda/a menu of what's to come. This provides the audience with an overview and some hooks on which to hang the content that follows.

(2) Do include quotes, if they're relevant and, no, don't read them out loud. Quotes, like outlines, are special cases where text really adds value.

(3) Why not try to cover fewer points but interact more? No-one's going to remember more than a few points anyway.

(4) The occasional list of items seems fine; a succession of bullet point lists does not. Surely we know by now that people absolutely hate endless lists of bullet points.

(5) Sometimes slides and handouts can not be equivalent, not least because some diagrams/tables/charts simply cannot be adequately resolved on screen - they have to be in a handout. So, why not handout the slides as normal (even if they are just pictures - people can write their own notes alongside the pictures) plus additional handouts where necessary?

Thanks for keeping these issues alive Tony. As a result, I believe we really are getting closer to a sensible way forward.


Tony Hirst said...

As someone who blogs (or at least, takes electronic notes of) other people's talks whenever I attend them, I've come to realise that "glanceable" slides are the ones I appreciate most (here are some initial thoughts on why: )


Tony Karrer said...

Karl and Clive - thanks for the input. I tend to agree with what you are saying. I'll take a fresh look early next week at my slides and see what I come up with.

Clive - I'm definitely still going to struggle with volume vs. interaction. I tend to want to get people quickly to the discussion I think is most valuable. But that can take a while (of me presenting).

Tony H - It was interesting to read your comments about blogging presentations. I tend to agree with you. I like when they have the main point concisely captured on the slide. If I have to wait until they are done speaking to the slide, I haven't had time to capture.

But my bigger pet peeve are speakers who turn out not to have any content. When you sit there trying to blog a presentation and you find that the points are so basic/superficial that there's nothing to say in the blog - it's really an eye-opener. Probably 50% of the presentations I attend fall into that camp. They don't make a single point that readers of the blog would find interesting. Sheesh - what a waste of an hour.

Anonymous said...

Clive practises what he preaches, to good effect. Guy couldn't suck at presenting if he set out with the deliberate aim of doing so. So these guys are good role models and give tips worth taking.

Consider the possibility of creating two separate resources: one to use as a background visual aid for during your presentation, and a separate set to hand out in hard copy as notes at the end, which can include more text, like quotes, etc. You can tell people you're going to do this, and they will be able to relax more and listen to you as you speak. Why afterwards? Well, if you dish these things out before you speak, there is a chance they will read ahead of you and spoil your punchline... ;-)