No better way to sink a lesson

This post was originally written over a year ago. I discovered it lurking in my drafts folder and thought it was worth posting even though it references a dated news story.

“As a professional speechwriter, I often tell my clients that there’s no better way to sink a speech than to build it around a Powerpoint presentation. Watching Mitt Romney’s much-hyped health care speech only confirmed that theory.”
David Meadvin

This quote, from the Presentation Magic blog, is a fabulous summary of what is wrong with many speeches, lectures, and presentations today – that the speech is built around a PowerPoint.

But it's only half the story. It doesn't provide a solution. Fortunately, a simple answer is found by flipping this idea:

"There's no better way to improve a speech than to build your slides around your presentation."

The biggest mistake teachers, speakers, lecturers make is creating the slides first in PowerPoint and then speaking by using the bullet-laden, information dense slides as a teleprompter. The correct way to prepare a speech or lesson plan is to first determine what the important points are, develop supporting statements, facts, figures, and even script the presentation in what you feel is the most effective way. Only then should you open your slide software to create simple, visual supporting slides – including blank ones when appropriate – to accompany the points you want to emphasize.

That's it. It's simple. Stop building your lesson around the notes you've unfortunately typed into PowerPoint by habit. Start preparing great lessons by teaching using good practices that have been shown to improve learning, and over time develop some well designed visuals that support your important points.

Dance for your Ph.D. – Replacing PowerPoint with Dance

Not only am I passionate about improving the way presentations are delivered, but as a professional ballroom dancer by night, I also happen to be very passionate about dance. As you can imagine, it's not very often that those two passions meet up. Which is why I was ecstatic when I came across this fabulous TEDxBrussels talk about using dance instead of PowerPoint. John Bohannon – a.k.a. the Gonzo Scientist – is a biologist, writer, adventurer, and creator of the Dance Your Ph.D Contest. He masterfully demonstrated the technique of presentation via dance at the recent TEDxBrussels event as he shared the stage with 10 dancers from Minneapolis' Black Label Movement dance company. Watch the 11-minute presentation below.

While hiring a dance troupe for each presentation you give may be a little unrealistic, what I love about this innovative idea is that it contains all of the key ingredients or an effective presentation: engagement, novelty, repetition (albeit simultaneous repetition rather than sequential), and concision.

What other creative presentation methods could replace PowerPoint?

Video Episode 5: Designing Slides for Cognitive Load

Here's a real world example of a chart adapted to a slide and how some simple changes make the chart more readable and easier to understand.

This video is also available via a free subscription to the Brainslides Video Podcast in iTunes.

Video Episode 4: Improve Images with Alpha Selection

Images can be a great visual aid. But when you're using a black or gradient slide background and the image is surrounded by a white square it can look tacky. Here's how to use a tool in Keynote to selectively remove the background of an image to make it really fit the slide design.

This video is also available via a free subscription to the Brainslides Video Podcast in iTunes.