Presentation Basics

Monday, 24 July 2017

Today we're going to talk about what is wrong with presentations and presentation software as they have come to be used.

Presentations in class or at conferences are a weapon used to inflict maximum torturous boredom on an audience of unsuspecting victims.

Slideshows are the main modality of such attacks.

PowerPoint Karaoke

This is all very bad.Purewal, Sarah Jacobsson. “The World’s Worst PowerPoint Presentations.” PC World.

The typical mode for preparing presentations these days seems to be oriented toward allowing anyone to give a presentation, provided that they have the slide deck in front of them.

The more cynical among us have come to call this exercise PowerPoint karaoke.

The problem

The problem is not PowerPoint itself.Kapterev, A. “Death by PowerPoint.” SlideShare. Last modified July 31, 2007.

PowerPoint is just a tool.

All tools can be used in various ways for good or ill.

A knife can be used in the kitchen to prepare food, which feeds people and makes them happy. That same knife can also be used as a weapon.

Like with all of the other tools that we have used, the end product has to do with how we use them. Our intentions drive what happens more than the tools we use.

A rather hilarious example of how a major speech may have gone very differently, had the speaker been compelled to use PowerPoint in today's typical style:

The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation - Peter Norvig

Edward Tufte

Edward Tufte is a statistician and artist and Professor Emeritus at Yale University. If you ever have a chance to go to one of his workshops, you absolultely should do so.

Have a look through his website:

Tufte has led the charge for years that in order to communicate research and ideas, we need to pay close attention to aesthetics.

Beautifully designed communication is better at convincing others and transmitting knowledge than ugly or clunky communication.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

As we mentioned earlier, PowerPoint is not the problem.

We are the problem.Tufte, Edward R. The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press, 2011.

We expect presentations to be boring and hideous, and so they are.

We expect that no one will pay attention to our boring and hideous presentations, and so they don't.

And it is not our fault.

We have been trained and cajoled and led into doing things in the same way over and over and over again.

You all have the opportunity to be better, to do better.

The Lessig Method of Presentations

Lawrence Lessig's presentation style is widely recognized as being among the best in the business right now.Reynolds, Garr. “The ‘Lessig Method’ of Presentation.” Presentation Zen. Last modified October 7, 2005.

We want to aim for this kind of scripted presentation for our final projects in this class.

Getting a Network the World Needs

Lessig talks on a wide variety of topics, but copyright is among his favorite. This longish talk is an exemplary presentation.



I have taken the libery of creating a response to Norvig's stylistic blunder, here:

The Gettysburg Reveal.js Presentation - John D. Martin III

This presentation is an example of what is possible with reveal.js. It is not even a terribly sophisticated example.

Next time

I want you to review the materials above and come to class tomorrow prepared to work in your presentation team.

Look over the repository for the presentation assignment and read through the and files contained there:

Assignment #6: Be Presentable

Presentation Basics - July 24, 2017 -