A couple of weeks ago I came to deliver a presentation in a seminar after four speakers who were delivering a technical talk to the business owners using powerpoint and speaking in English, which is the second or third language of the speakers and the audience. I could see the disconnect of the speakers with the audience. I could see the boredom. It was getting late after lunch and people were dozing. I came, junked the presentation that I had prepared, and made a presentation using our local language and talked with my heart. Immediately I got the attention and the audience woke up. Several from the audience later came and congratulated me for waking up the participants and making the session lively.
For over 10 years now, I have realized the futility of using the presentations. I have discarded the use of the powerpoint presentations, except very technical talks to very captive audience where there is enough time to intersperse talk with slides, in workshop type formats.
I had started with power point presentations much before they became a norm. It was way back in the mid of 1996-97 that I started with multi-media presentations using a laptop. Those were the time when powerpoint presentations and multimedia was a novelty. Somewhere along the line they became a ritual. They lost their power and became a drag on the presentation.Following are my reasons for urging people to ban the use of powerpoints:
|Lights are on the Powerpoint Screen and
the performer is hidden in the dark
|Evils that we see everywhere. More so in Academia
Somehow, the powerpoint slides now occupy the center of the hall. The speaker stands in a dark corner barely visible. The poor presenter has become a secondary aid to the presentation. His voice barely audible, his actions non-existent, trying his best to come up to the level of the presentation.
Instead of speaking from the heart, the speaker is reading from the slides. Instead of delivering the arguments naturally and fluently flowing from one sentence to another, the arguments are haltingly delivered losing the punch and the convincing power. Instead of preparing a story line that will engage the audience during the talk, the presenter spends his time tweaking his presentation that no one is going to even bother to read, if at all.
A speaker should only focus on the main 5-7 points that he is going to make during a presentation and keep the audience engaged through a fluent connection between them. In Psychology course long ago, I read that a person can not hold more than 5-7 points in his head at the same time. A power point presentation should therefore preferably has no more than 7 slides. Each slide containing a picture that should stimulate the interest. Rest is what the speaker should say. Preferably the power point should not contain any sentences. At most key words. One or two per line. Pictures that support what the speaker is saying.
|Presenter is talking to screen not the students!
The most important thing in a presentation is the connection with the audience. The speaker’s attention is no longer on the audience. He is no longer delivering a performance. He is simply trying to speak what is written on the slides. What is written on slides is visible to the audience. They can read it much quicker than what the speaker speaks of. If the attention of the audience is on the slides, they read it and then go back to their mobiles or dozing. Therefore slides should not contain any thing that the speaker is going to speak about.
The connection with the audience is lost. Ability of the speaker to customize the presentation according to the level of engagement and interest and the body language of the audience is gone. It is as if the actors on a stage are reading from the script and not performing the role.
I have also noticed a very interesting phenomenon. Many of the students were not buying books. They were simply using the teacher transparencies. The transparencies and their contents formed the perimeters of what the student would study in a course and also what they would expect the teachers to examine them. The use (actually abuse) of transparencies by teachers merits a separate post that will highlight on one hand the dependency of the teachers on the slides and their inability to develop their teaching skills and enhance their knowledge, and on the other hand would impact the students in constraining the scope of their study to the few sentences written on the presentation slides.
The problems with slides are so many that one should just junk them or not use more than a few. A fifteen minutes peresentation should not have more than 3 slides. A 30 minutes presentation should not have more than ten slides including the title and the overview and the summary.
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