Having fun with PowerPoint. Yes really!

It’s that time of year again (well for me anyway) where I am now thinking about BETT 2012 and all the planning, and BESA have sent out e-mails requesting proposals for the seminar programme.

Actually they’re calling it “Learn Live”, and there’s a determination to make it all a bit more exciting. 

“We are actively encouraging those wanting to showcase their ideas to be imaginative in terms of format - we are looking for a richer, more engaging and effective set of sessions than 100+ sets of Death By PowerPoint.”


Although PowerPoint can be and has been assumed as non engaging with the familiar term ‘’Death by PowerPoint’’, it isn't actually just about the technology but how you use it. Understanding the new and improved functions to make your PowerPoint the one that wont send your audience to sleep.

These issues have been discussed in the past between Gerald Haigh, independent writer to Microsoft and Kristian Still, Director of E Learning at Hamble College. He uses PowerPoint for presentations, and in class. His students use it too, very effectively, and I guess he really puts his finger on what can go wrong when he says, that PowerPoint is a visual tool, and that you need to think very carefully before you use it to display text.

“Let your slide images do the talking. Keep text to a minimum,”

PowerPoint 2010 strongly builds on that visual theme, of course, with enhanced features for handling video and photographs.

That said, the best slides are always the simplest – a striking colour image, or simple chart, or an arresting sentence with lots of space around it. In this, Kristian’s a fan of presentation expert Professor Garr Reynolds, whose “Top Ten Slide Tips” strongly reinforce messages around visual impact, simplicity and natural flow. As Reynolds has it,

‘The slides themselves were never meant to be the "star of the show".’

Kristian’s also keen on brevity, and recommends that you take a look at the Pecha-Kucha approach to presentations, 20 slides, each slide up for 20 seconds. There’s a whole raft of examples on the Pecha Kucha site, all of them very visual, many highly creative, a few wonderfully bizarre.

Finally, let’s hope that nobody at BETT 2012 suffers the fate of IBM Executive Nick Donofrio. One day in 1993 Nick was doing a presentation to Louis Gerstner, who’d just taken over as IBM CEO. He was making the mistake of subjecting his new boss to what was probably then called “Death by OHP”. Gerstner, though, got fed up and, because he obviously could,

“I stepped to the table and, as politely as I could in front of his team, switched off the projector.”

So, don’t be put off from planning to use PowerPoint at BETT. It really can be as rich, engaging and effective as BESA rightly wants! And if in doubt, throw in some funky transitions between slides. This always pleases me.

(The Louis Gerstner story is told in his book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” ).

Picture by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

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