Video: How NOT to use PowerPoint

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On July 15, 2008

PowerPoint is a staple technology of today’s classroom (at least on this campus in classes that use clickers). However, there is both a "right" way and a "wrong" way to use PowerPoint. The comedian in the video above describes several of the "wrong" techniques people use in creating PowerPoint presentations (myself included, on occasion). "Wrong" is in quotation marks because the techniques are not necessarily objectively wrong (like stealing), but because these methods obscure the message the PowerPoint slides are trying to convey.
The whole point to PowerPoint is to make the information you are trying to instill in your audience immediately accessible to them by having it up on the screen. The audience can follow your presentation through the bullet points, charts, graphs, images, video clips, animations, or whatever else you want to put into your presentation. The real trick is to keep each slide to a minimum level of information to prevent your audience from becoming overwhelmed through "information overload". Don McMillan in the video above gives great examples of bloated slides with a graph that has way, way, too much information on it, and another slide that has too many animations stacking on top of each other.
The best rule of thumb when trying to create PowerPoint slides is: Keep It Simple, Stupid! (often referred to as KISS).
Apparently, there are a host of videos on YouTube about how to use PowerPoint. I don’t have the time to watch them all and evaluate them all for you, but feel free to poke around and see what makes sense to you.
Basically, good ("right") PowerPoint strategies can be summarized as follows:

1. Use keynotes (just as you would when creating a good speech). You will use these keynotes to elaborate on the important parts of your presentation.
2. Don’t cram text onto slides. Less text can be more effective because it is much easier for the audience to read. White space is your friend.
3. Don’t read from your slides — if you have complete sentences on your slides, you will be tempted to read your slides verbatim, which means that to your audience, you will appear to be talking to a screen instead of talking to them.
4. Don’t cram slides full of bullet points (see point 2 above).
5. If you use data or graphs, make them very clean. Avoid "chart junk" — too much information packed into a graph that obfuscates the meaning of the data.
6. Use the same transition for every slide. Just because PowerPoint has a hundred different transitions does NOT mean you are obligated to use each and every one of them in a single presentation that has 10 slides.
7. Colors — Use a dark background and a light font or use a light background and a dark font. Experts can disagree on which background is more effective (light or dark), but ALL experts will agree that contrast is necessary.
8. Font size — large enough to be seen from the back of the room in which ever venue you will be presenting. It is often hard to predict the size of the venue, especially if you are traveling to a conference, so in this case bigger is better (to a point — you don’t need to have 72-point font on every slide).
9. Always have an intro slide and always have a concluding slide. Both slides should have some contact information about you. The intro slide should also have a picture of you or a meaningful image of the topic you will be discussing.
10. Handouts of the presentation — not required, but can be useful if you want folks to take notes about your presentation. It is also something your audience can take with them when they leave, either for their own reference or to hand over to someone else.

Posted by

On July 15, 2008. Posted in Teaching Strategies