The PowerPoint Crutch

Ok, I have a rant… (gets out soapbox and climbs on). Anymore, people ASSUME that if you are giving a presentation or teaching anything, that you HAVE to use PowerPoint. This assumption is responsible in large degree for a huge number of BAD presentations.

It used to be that you had to learn to present well, based on your speaking style, posture, and actions. Now, people just throw the lights, put some cheesy frames up, and talk in the background and expect that they’ve done a good presentation because they had their PowerPoint display. When I see someone who created a handout with bullet points, and then a PowerPoint display that was nothing more than text on the screen that repeated those points, I wonder why they went to the effort to produce the PP. It is redundant, and does not enhance the message at all.

I’ve seen a LOT of those lame PP presentations. PP has become a crutch for a lack of preparedness and practice – people use it to cover the fact that they are reading their stuff instead of delivering it in a more natural and spontaneous way.

I have never used one. I frequently use the projector for my classes, but not for PowerPoint – to demonstrate image techniques, show website examples, show code samples, etc. I alternate that with verbal instruction and hands-on experience for the students. I think teaching has given me the best possible experience for presentations, because it has helped me to understand how to engage the students, and to understand which things they have the hardest time grasping. I’m not the best teacher, but I am not about to create a PP presentation just so I can pretend that I am!

I think that we REALLY need to think OUTSIDE the PowerPoint box. PowerPoint is NOT a requirement to deliver a memorable presentation, it is often not even an enhancement. In fact, I’ve had someone insult me over not using PowerPoint, and they thought I was a wacko for using the Projector to demonstrate techniques! (Of course, this is the same person who thought that if I did not teach my students how to hand-code a website, that I could not possibly teach them to build a website at all!)

It is far more important that you plan for interest, comprehension, the “ah-ha” factor, and a competent delivery than that you have a PP ready! A professional presentation has less to do with PP and a LOT more to do with delivering an enjoyable and understandable message.

That means, in practical terms:

1. Plan it well so that it has a logical progression. A good presenter can present from a few notes – they don’t have to write everything down, they just need reminders, and can deliver a good deal of it spontaneously.
2. Practice for natural delivery (no one wants you to sound like you are reading).
3. Time it, and edit for time constraints.
4. Practice some more.

Usually, I practice a few times as I am creating it, again when I am timing it, and then I practice a few more times in the car on the way there (Kevin usually goes with me – and we have a LONG time in the car almost anywhere we present).

Last night we attended a presentation called “Starting a Business with Nothing”, that was supposed to be about Bootstrapping. The guy spend the first half of his presentation talking about his dream and vision for his current project. Halfway through, he finally hit the topic he came to discuss. Consequently, half of the audience sat there with a bemused look on their faces for the first half of the presentation, wondering when he would get to the point. He didn’t even tie them up into something comprehensible, when he could have – there was a great opportunity to lead from one right into the other, but he didn’t. He just quit one, picked up on the other, and didn’t relate them with one another. But he did have his PowerPoint…

This is one area where we really NEED to think for ourselves. If speaking is not a strength, then practice until it is. Because trying to prop up incompetence with bad slides just makes it worse.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.