Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When did we stop...

caring about how we present? I attended a talk today which was accompanied by the requisite PowerPoint presentation. The speaker herself was clear, well organized, confident and had some thoughtful things to say and share. The presentation, however, was, in my mind... worthless during the talk. The PowerPoint slides contained far too much text, there were titles that wrapped down to the next line which had some of the text up into the top border graphic and on one slide she specifically said "Here are the 4 points..." yet, once again, they were hidden in a block of too much text. I realize people are against bullet points as a design tool because they are boring, but if you have four points to share, don't hide them in italics amongst a paragraph of text when you are presenting a PowerPoint.

A PowerPoint presentation should be an enhancement to your talk. It should not be there just to be there, nor should it distract from what you are saying. The text on the page should highlight what you are saying not BE what you are saying. And if people would just take a moment to design, just a little bit, the whole thing would be more professional and well received. As it was, I was so distracted by the lack of any design or care to make the content project well, I missed a lot of the talk itself. I'm going to guess that people there that don't have knowledge of design just ignored the PowerPoint and listened to her speak. There were some requests for copies of the presentation afterward, but this is because the slides themselves contained her talk. So why have it accept to hand out later as a reference?

When I was working with Microsoft at different venues across the country at conferences, there was a lot of work and care that went into the PowerPoint presentation looking good and doing it's job (enhancing the speaker's talk). Now, for obvious reasons, Microsoft cared a great deal about the PowerPoints looking good, it is their software, it wasn't just the speaker that would look good, but their software would look good, too. But for those of us that benefit from visual aid when listening to a talk, I was grateful when a presentation was done well. We don't all learn from listening... I'm sure you've heard of this by now, there are different types of learners... auditory, kin-esthetic, etc.

I have now been to two presentations in the last 2 months where the presentation aspect of the talk was neglected and therefore distracting. The presentation was there because it would seem it is now required if you want to speak in front of a group. PowerPoint can get a bad wrap, but the truth is that Presentations can and when done well DO enhance a talk. But they have to be done well. It is worth the care. This downward trend toward not caring about the presentation and it just being enough to have one... is worse than not having one at all.

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