Monday, 19 September 2016


Two or three tips for presenters

Yesterday's posting on Conductive World was a snippet about PowerPoint:

This reminded me that there are conferences coming up – well, meetings. These will serve a whole variety of functions for those who attend, one of which will be the formal sharing of knowledge and experience.


PowerPoint will loom large at these events. I do wonder, however, whether all those who use this tool are aware that it has been a matter for serious dispute whether the immediate benefits it may offer its users, are negated by possible bad effects for its audiences and, in a longer run, for society generally.

Looking back over the years I recall a PowerPoint + personal performance by Ivan Su on the activities of SAHK that was truly masterful, and a memorable visual show by Rony Schenker on hope, but nothing else. Well, I do, but nothing positive. Generally, I have to admit, that what I have seen seems to bear out critical comments aplenty that can be read elsewhere:

So my first tip for presenters is avoid PowerPoint – that is unless you regard yourself as its master, or you wish to present some attractive visual images by this means. If you have something to say or to tell about, then say or tell. You will likely have precious little time to do so on the day anyway, so concentrate on saying it – and make sure that you produce a written version and put this somewhere on line where it can be read and considered properly by a wider audience (this does not mean a decontextualised re-presentation of your overheads, but words!)


And when it comes to visual material, in the form not just of PowerPoint but on 'posters' too (and elsewhere, outside the context of meetings etc.) avoid what Edward Tuft called 'chart junk':
The interior decoration of graphics generates a lot of ink that does not tell the viewer anything new. The purpose of decoration varies — to make the graphic appear more scientific and precise, to enliven the display, to give the designer an opportunity to exercise artistic skills. Regardless of its cause, it is all non-data-ink or redundant data-ink, and it is often chartjunk.
Tufte, E. R. (1983).The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT, Graphics Press 

Over the years I have winced at many of the sins exemplified here:

Again, if you have something worth conveying, state it as clearly as possible, and let the data speak for themselves. If certain points still need further emphasising or qualifying, find a way to state this properly elsewhere.

Parthian shot

And please do avoid using the word 'support', and all those other weasel words. If behind such words you do actually have something material and wothwhile to pass on to others, then say what you actually mean:

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