I have a bone to pick with all the PowerPoint bashers out there. Like you I have been to some very boring lectures where the person ‘teaching’ me is great at preparing boring slides. This is not the fault of the program. PowerPoint is a very powerful presentation tool that can enhance teaching and learning opportunities. But used badly it can not only retard learning but turn students off the topic being delivered.
I have found that there are several types of poor PowerPoint presenters:
Excellent information but their whole presentation consists of them reading from the slides. Believe it or not, I can read. If you want me to read your notes give it to me on paper. Do not treat me like I am stupid and read it for me.
The Added Extra Presenter
Has a lecture or teaching points which they deliver beautifully. A PowerPoint is presented that follows the topic but contains ‘extra’ information that I am expected to read while they are talking. A really bad choice here. I either have to listen to what they are saying or read their slides. I tend to try and do both and do both poorly.
The Alternate Dimension Presenter
Has a lovely PowerPoint but it does not seem to have any connection to what they are talking about. I still do not know what dancing bears have to do with the digestive system.
The Bells and Whistles Presenter
This type of presenter demonstrates that they really know how to use Microsoft PowerPoint. They make sure that they include every little bell and whistle that PowerPoint has. These types of presentations usually look great but at the end of it I have no idea what they were presenting about because I was distracted by the flashy show.
PowerPoint is a fantastic Microsoft product if it is used correctly. The end user is at fault if the PowerPoint is boring or complex. I am sad to say I am at fault. Many times I have given some research task to my students and said “Produce a talk with a PowerPoint that shows….” My students have done just that. They have produced a project on PowerPoint. Ten lovely full slides full of research and a few pictures. Beautiful animations that take away from the information and slide transitions that make me dizzy. This type of traditional ‘project’ is much better on Word, a webpage or on a Sway. If you have not experienced Sway yet prepare to be surprised at how easy it is to produce amazing visual presentations. For more information on Sway look here.
So here are my top 10 PowerPoint rules to lift the engagement of my students and myself – because we all know that there is nothing more boring that sitting through 30 PowerPoint presentations from our students.
- Use PowerPoint if you want to visually enhance a talk. If not consider using a Microsoft product better suited to the task such as Sway, Word, Movie Maker or OneNote.
- Write your talk first and then design your slide show around enhancing what you have written.
- Stick to a consistent colour pallet.
- One slide per idea.
- Use words and pictures on the slide to enhance your talk – not the other way around.
- Try and use the same font throughout the PowerPoint. If you want to emphasise something use bold, underline or change the font size.
- Limit the number of words on each slide. Try to keep it to about 10 words maxim at a time.
- Limit ‘cool’ features like animations or transitions to no more than one a slide or 5 for a presentation unless it had a direct enhancement on what you are talking about (eg electrons orbiting a nucleus)
- If you would not see it on a documentary, do not use it in your PowerPoint.
- Do not include sound unless it is essential to convey what you are talking about. e.g. Include the call of a seagull in a talk about seagulls.
Please feel free to add to my list. I am sure I have missed something out.