9 March 2009

An imaginative innovation in a PowerPoint presentation?

In December, I reported on a meeting my wife had been to, at which there were some unscheduled PowerPoint presentations – see There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint until there’s an audience

Yesterday, I made the mistake of going with her to another meeting of the same people at the same place.

You might think that a meeting of voluntary part-time stewards in a medieval bishop’s palace would be an unlikely venue for PowerPoint presentations, let alone that you’d see anything new in the way this latter-day scourge of audiences can be used. But you’d be wrong on both counts.

Our speaker’s imaginative innovation was not just to stand directly in front of the screen, but in front of the laptop and the projector as well – with her back to all the gadgets on which her presentation depended, as well as to all the people sitting on the front two or three rows.

This had two obvious consequences. One was that it was made it even more difficult than usual for her to find out what to say next (other than the fluent “Ers” and “Ums” that prefaced almost every sentence), as she had to turn round both to see the screens and to press the button on the laptop;

The other was that that her position a few metres in front of the middle of the screen prevented large swathes of the audience from seeing what was on the screen (even if they had wanted to).

Luckily for them and unluckily for everyone else, they weren’t missing much, as there was nothing to look other than lists of items in a multi-million pound plan for developing tourism at the palace.

Whether or not it counts as another innovation, our presenter’s choice of clothing – jeans with a top that exposed her rather unsightly naval – at least raised questions in our minds: was this a deliberate bid to look as different as possible from this smartly turned out late-middle aged, middle-class audience? Or was it just casual weekend attire that was being worn to remind us that she, unlike us, was having to work on a Sunday?

If nothing else, we learnt that it has yet to occur to anyone at the palace that it might be worth spending a small fraction of the millions of pounds in their budget on some presentation skills training for development officers (or an even smaller fraction on a copy of one of my books).

In any case, twenty minutes of this dire performance was more than enough to convince us that we were in for a repeat of the event reported on in December and that our time would be better spent by leaving in search of the cup of tea that had failed to materialise before the meeting started.

1 comment:

Sal Pinto said...

While I usually agree with most things Max has to say, I want to give one example where a bulletpoint slide might have been very effective:

Picture the Roman Senate in 47 BC. Imagine that some chronoclasm brings early 21st Century technology to the late Roman republic.

Caesar makes a grand entrance, the lights dim, Powerpoint fires up and projects a classic bulletpoint slide.

He says "Have you heard the one about my recent victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus in the Battle of Zela?"

Caesar reads from the slide
* Veni
* Vidi
* Vici