Tuesday, 27 January 2009

PowerPoint is evil - alternative views

Much can be said about the way we communicate with presentation slides. PowerPoint is evil was a headline which grabbed many an imagination, and also struck a chord with the sentiments of people who had been bored to a near death experience.

Personally I am a great fan of the arguments presented by Tufts on visual communication. There are also many valuable resources and web sites which exist to advise the presenter. An instructive book which takes a theatrical perspective has been produced by Cliff Atkinsons
Beyond Bullet Points, which is available in our University Library, as well as via the usual online bookstores.

There has been some excellent work done by a consortium of US Universites who have looked at the assertion evidence approach to presentations - detailed below.

The issue is perhaps a little like driving a car. For some the instruction which is required has to be simple ones which will prevent the presentation stalling, and may even make it look like it is remotely coherent, but in the longer term you not only have to master the car, know how to drive it, but are able to ensure it stays on the road, and that you can navigate it to various destinations, always remembering that this particular car does not have the benefit of roads, signposts and certainly not motorwarys - pretty crap analogy, but it will have to do for now...

Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides: The Assertion-Evidence Structure http://www.writing.engr.psu.edu/slides.html

Many of us ask our students (undergrad and post grad) to make presentations and are sometimes disappointed with the outcomes in terms of the content of the slides.

You may find this resource useful - developed collaboratively by a set of US universities specifically addressing the needs of engineering and scientific education. It is part of a wider set of material which also addresses technical writing.

From the web site....
" Recently, much criticism has arisen about the design of slides created with Microsoft PowerPoint. This web page challenges PowerPoint's default design of a single word or short phrase headline supported by a bullet list. Rather than subscribing to Microsoft's topic-subtopic design for slides, this web page advocates an assertion-evidence structure, which is shown in Figure 1 and which serves presentations that have the purpose of informing and persuading audiences about technical content. This structure, which features a sentence-assertion headline supported by visual evidence, is documented in Chapter 4 of The Craft of Scientific Presentations, a November 2005 article in Technical Communication, and the presentation "Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides."

BTW I have no desire to revive the passionate debate as to the relative merits of presentation software options ;-)

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