Presentations with punch! (or, Avoiding death by powerpoint…)

I have been dabbling my toes in the twitter pond this week. I had signed up a few months ago, and then really couldn’t see a lot of value educationally in it, so hadn’t been back.  But I had read so many edublogs about it recently, I thought I should give it a another go. Seems like with most of these technologies, your network is paramount. And building that network will take time – but even though I am only following a very small number of people, I have found some great links already, and watched an interesting online presentation I would have otherwise missed.

I discovered a few new blogs to read through twitter, and last week Sue Waters was discussing successful PowerPoint presentations – Engaged or Enraged? 

I found this post particularly relevant to my circumstances, as I have had the opportunity to present fairly extensively in the last couple of years.  And while I understand all the issues that are being raised, I sometimes get confused about exactly what will work for me, in the context of my own topics and audience.  I’ll just quote my comment on Sue’s blog…

I will continue to watch this post with interest, and will probably blog about this topic myself this week, when I’ve had a chance to follow all the suggested links. I am somewhat confused by this whole topic. I have presented extensively over the last couple of years, and I always seem to get good feedback after my sessions. But I struggle to follow several of these new ‘PowerPoint rules’. I never read my slides, and I always feel I am comfortable just discussing the topic, adding anecdotes etc. I do however, find myself having bullet points in my slides. And, as much as I have reworked and reworked my presentations with the idea of replacing majority of text with images, in most cases I cannot think of an appropriate image to insert. (Its funny – I remember a couple of years ago reading research that said the only images in presentations should be specifically relevant to the topic…). So, I find myself in a quandary – I feel like I present well, but that my PowerPoint’s would not come up to scratch under scrutiny. Maybe they work because I generally run hands on workshops, and give the participants a copy of the presentation on CD or online, so they can follow all the links and engage with the activities. When I use bullets its just a brief word, to jog a readers memory when they are looking back on the resource, trying to remember what I said.

And I feel concerned at the moment – I have one or two of those inspirational videos in a presentation I am preparing for next week… and while I agree you could watch it in your own time…many teachers who attend my sessions would say they would not have time.

I was quite reassured to read in Miles Burke’s blog post ’19 tips for public speaking’ – “use images only to make a point, don’t just add images for fun “, as that is one of the areas I struggle with.  I’m a photographer, and an Art teacher – I am a very visual person.  But I also a very logical thinker, and sometimes I struggle to see how to connect an image with the sometimes abstract concepts I might be discussing – or in fact with the cold hard facts of ICT implementation, or utilising a specific software. I was also pleased to be reassured in a private comment that there was no need to remove the inspirational videos from my workshops sessions, that comment was perhaps more applicable to keynotes.

So, I guess I will continue to re-evaluate my presentations critically, keep text to a bare minimum, add images where appropriate and never read my slides. And continue the model of practical, hands on presentations, where the content, resources and activities are far more important than what is on my slides.

And hopefully I can continue to present useful materials to participants without sending them to sleep or killing them with PowerPointlessness! 🙂

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