Feeds

Missing the PowerPoint of public speaking

Sliding into submission

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Column The oxymoron "interesting PowerPoint presentation" was offered as a small witticism a few months back. I thought it was good, and shared it with a friend, who reacted angrily: "Blame the workman, not the tools," he said. Frankly, (I told him) I disagree. Powerpoint inherently ruins a presentation in 95 per cent of cases.

We've all heard the phrase "death by PowerPoint" - that numbing feeling the brain suffers as confusing slide after confusing slide follow one another. I have to do a lot of public speaking, and am one of those lucky people who think on their feet, without being afflicted by terror. But I couldn't help feeling that the good feedback I got from audiences wasn't just because I was a brilliant speaker. I'm not!

The common factor between my own presentations and others which were far better informed, researched and presented, was that they used PowerPoint and I didn't. Eventually, it dawned on me that PowerPoint really does ruin a good speech.

Academic research seems to back up my analysis. Professor John Sweller of the University of New South Wales said: "If you have ever wondered why your eyes start glazing over as you read those dot points on the screen, as the same words are being spoken, take heart in knowing there is a scientific explanation - it is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in the written and spoken form at the same time."

My own dissertation, which I posted in a private CIX conference in 2005, said: "The problem is knowing when visuals are a help and when they aren't. There are indeed a few situations - of the 'blackboard notes' lecture type - where PowerPoint is actually useful - where you want to have your audience stop and write down what you're saying.

"It's not rocket science. If you want your audience's attention, don't distract them."

Blackboard note-giving, I suspect, is more useful than most speakers allow for. If they did that, they'd find Powerpoint useful. But, of course, they don't. They fall between two stools.

What they actually do is to put up a slide which, if the audience had time to write it down, consider, and study it, would be useful information. But, because they are presenting they feel they have to be entertaining, and they can't just shut up and let you make notes - which makes it hard to focus, either on the screen or on what the speaker is saying.

I have a very simple rule: If you want to illustrate your talk with the occasional amusing cartoon, do...but don't make the mistake of doing that at the same time as you try to make a technical or sales point.

Professor Sweller goes further and says notes should not be read aloud off the blackboard: "The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster. It should be ditched. It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."

Of course, if you are not a confident public speaker, notes can help. I would actually recommend using PowerPoint in preparation and then using it purely as an aide memoire.

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.