I went to hear Richard Stallman talk a couple of days ago about copyright. Whilst I did not necessarily agree with everything he said, I was totally engaged with him and his speech for over two hours.
The thing was struck me about this speech was that Richard used absolutely no visual aids and definitely no PowerPoint slides - he just stood and talked. The presentation aids and skills Richard used which so thoroughly captured my attention were humor, enthusiasm, expert knowledge of his subject and the occasional radical, 'shocking' pronouncement. The other thing he did was use unpretentious, lay language that I could understand - he didn't try to blind with science.
Using PowerPoint to give presentations
Leigh Blackall, who also went to hear Richard, commented on this very same thing, remarking to me that 'we' should be ashamed at the way we rely on PowerPoint slides when we give presentations. I immediately countered that it's alright for someone like Stallman - he is a very experienced speaker and probably gives the same talk time and time again. Leigh left me with this thought: "But aren't all teachers?"
Picking up the gauntlet?
There's no doubt about it, PowerPoint can be a crutch for presenters and can make the most boring speech even more boring. And I shall never forget the feedback students gave me after a session I ran where the computer didn't work and I had to abandon my PowerPoint slides and use a whiteboard - they thought it was one of the best session I had ever presented.
I have tried to change the way I use PowerPoint from slide after slide of bullet points to using images only. And I think that is working quite well. So I am reluctant to give up my PowerPoint slides altogether. But at the same time, it has been really useful for me to reflect on my presentation style and remind myself of the importance of keeping things simple and entertaining.
Do you use PowerPoint when giving presentations - how do you get on? What do you think are key presentation skills?
Image: 'The Evilution of Communication' Torley