Wednesday, October 17, 2007
PowerPoint versus story-telling
I am organizing a conference for about 300 people. There are 20 or so presenters in plenary and workshops. We asked every one of them to consider not using PowerPoint slides at all, to limit to a small number if they do, and in any case, to rely more on telling people what's interesting about the topic. If you can tell an anecdote or story - all the better.
Am I the only person who is sick of these words on a screen? I dislike the flying, spinning ones the most. The only PowerPoints that seem to add to the presentation for me are the ones with beautiful or interesting photos (such as what I posted here). I worked with First Nations communities a bit last year and heard so many good orators and story-tellers (including painful tales), that I felt spoiled.
Oh, almost all of our conference presenters chose to us PowerPoint anyhow, and almost all have so many slides they'll never get to tell a story. Good thing there will be coffee, good food and some interactive sessions. We even have a concert with great musicians one evening - I wonder if any of them will show slides rather than sing... Our conference.
What do you think? (Feel free to tell an anecdote or use a photo...)
Seraphine - yeah, me too.
I once made a very impressive PPS of step by step Root Canal( I used to work as a dental nurse) and I did it because I was fed up telling the same thing over and over. some patients really appreciated the information and I was inclined to end the story with 'its your own fault you have a cavity' in my impatience so the PPS saved some grace there.
Back in university days, I remember being absolutely enthralled while listening to some of my professors’ lessons. No visual accompaniment necessary. “Glitz and glamour” are not prerequisites for effective communication. A good delivery and listening skills are.
I use PP when I have to present data because frankly, I thought I would forget all the info if I did not, but there is absolutely nothing more compelling than a good orator, and I am going to practice presenting data without PP to see if I can present data without it. I am curious.
No one reads a guidebook unless they want to find out where to eat and sleep. And you won´t gain any deeper understanding of the place you are traveling. But everyone carries a novel when they´re on the road because it´s more interesting to read, and, god forbid, provides insight.
Over the past 2 days I attended a conference (3 sessions only) which ultimately will include over 5000. I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the presentations, 2 were around 1 hour each without any overheads, in storytelling fashion, the other of 3 hours involved the extensive use of power point. Here are the details assuming they may be of interest to your conference planning. I think balance and keeping attention spans to reasonable levels are key factors.
The 2 storytelling presentations were entitled “ The Great Divide: Overcoming Adversity, and “The Awakening of the Global Brain” , both were well suited to the story telling style, presented with powerful imagination that held the large audience interest throughout, one over breakfast and the other a luncheon session. One was more information based, looking back at our past brain evolution and considering likely effects into the future to consider where virtual reality is heading. The other was more inspirational in nature. The 3 hour session was entitled Governance Frameworks and Emerging Issues. This power point presentation was split into 5 sections with group particapation (pair off with whoever was sitting next to you) lasting about 10 minute after each presentation with volunteer feedback. Eg 1. What does corporate Governance mean in terms of say Amnesty and how does it apply?
2 What are its Key corporate Governance Principles?
3 What is the organisational framework for Corporate Governance?
4. What governance issues are highlighted globally?
5. What are the main elements of Corporate Governance?
Such a topic that might seem to be rather tedious (but of great importance) and is more suited to say smaller session of say max 100/150. I think balance is the key.
But seriously, I never cared for it until recently, and that was because most people do not use it correctly. It's very useful in the classroom if it's used CORRECTLY. If your PPT presentation could run without you, you're not doing it right. Slides should have very few words in the form of phrases and key words and NO sentences. Most of the information should still come out of your mouth. Graphics should only enhance the presentation. I've seen too many presentations with text crammed onto slides and silly irrelevant graphics. I don't need the presenter to read that stuff to me. I can probably read better than many of them, anyway.
I try to mix things up. When I introduce a new topic in class, like, say, thesis statements, I will do a PowerPoint outline of the key ideas that I want the students to take notes on and remember. BUT, I will put a short list of short phrases or words and then elaborate verbally and sometimes even add examples on the chalkboard. Some days, I just use the chalkboard. One good thing about PPT is that I use fewer "handouts," thus saving a few trees along the way. I use PPT to put up examples of material on the board, too, like examples of how to cite sources, etc. Another cool thing I've used PPT for is to actually demonstrate writing for the students. It's so much quicker than scribbling on the chalkboard.
Used well and intelligently, it is a marvelous thing. Used the way most people use it, it's maddening.
Thanks for the very specific examples Lindsay.
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