At conference after conference, we sit silently and tolerate illegible slides, silly graphics, and speakers who read bullet points out loud. While it's frustrating to see a typical conference presentation like this, it's infuriating when it's a keynote speaker who has typically been paid many thousands of dollars and who somehow can't make the time and effort to present useful images.
Here are some phrases that I never want to hear again:
- "I know you can't read this, but..." Then why are you showing it to us?
- "I usually have more time when I give this talk, so I might have to rush through some of it." Wait, this is the only time that I'm going to hear your talk. You've never given this talk to me, and you're never going to do it again, so there's no "usual." Please have the courtesy to plan the talk for the time allocated and customize it for the audience.
- "Oh, well, you can read that, I won't read it to you," usually after reading the first two or three bullet points. Why not just put up a URL and we can read the whole thing and go home?
- "Let me show you this YouTube, if I can get the WiFi to work." Really, you're going to make me sit and watch you fiddle with your computer and wait for the video to load, and "oh, sorry for the ad, hold on a second...?" You brought a laptop, bring a copy of the video with you and don't depend on the conference network.
How about this - if you have no graphics that will enhance your talk, just turn off the projector. You can make a list of your bullet points and put them online later if you think I will find them useful. Your audience will thank you!
As disappointed I get at so many presentations, I had an even more horrifying realization - if this is what we see at a conference, what do our students see in their classes? I mean, presumably giving a conference presentation is a special occasion, and we're seeing the best of what people can do. Most of the people at the conferences I attend are educators; more frighteningly, some of them TRAIN educators. What are they teaching each other, and their students, about how to communicate effectively? It's scary to contemplate.
Just to end on a positive note... there are so many people who do wonderful presentations. One of my favorites is Michelle Pacansky-Brock - you can find her at http://www.teachingwithoutwalls.com/. Here's one example from SlideShare of the kind of slides she creates: http://www.slideshare.net/brocansky/emerge3. Not everyone has the talent and taste of a Michelle, but I know we can all do better. Let's all of us, myself included, vow to end Zombie PowerPoint presentations.