Presentations…using PowerPoint (or Keynote or anything else)

A presentation that uses a software program like PowerPoint can enhance a talk by providing visual cues for elaboration and development, and aiding people who maximize understanding with seeing what is being said rather than just hearing it.

When the software is not used effectively, it becomes a page of written text in which the audience gets lost  because they are more prone to try to read all that stuff (“Ssh! Mr. Speaker I’m trying to read, be quiet!”) instead of listening to the speaker develop the key concepts/terms. And of course the implications for the presenter: what type of eye contact does he/she make with the audience when there is so much text to read from either the screen or monitor?

Look at the example here:

Now look at something a tad more appealing with good use of text & images:

Need I say more?

Then, there is also the issue of transitions and animation which we all like for the WOW! factor. Problem is that before we use it we aren’t interested in learning about it. We click these “cool” options, let the software program randomly choose the effects and we don’t bother modifying or adjusting things. As an end user of software, yeah, the possibilities are endless. As a good end user, we are quick to judge what is ineffective and correct it.

I shouldn’t toot my own horn, but after years of training in marketing, I prepare some fantastic presentations. I also, for a short while, trained the corporate and academic world on creating effective PowerPoint presentations (part of a previous career). Ultimately, the advice I am willing to share with everyone is don’t use it just because everyone else does (didn’t your mother warn you about that long ago?). Use it as a tool to enhance what you need to say, not just present what you are going to read to them.

Something new for me

Through friends and their blogs, this novice blogger has discovered many things…and unearthed some unknown talents while so doing. Much earlier this year, a friend posted a quiz on American geography. After taking the challenge (which truly was a challenge because I am not American :P), I started to investigate the script of the quiz itself. Languages in general fascinate me, so automatically the structure of the language used to program the game also intrigued me. So after playing with the actual language used to program the game, I gave in to my wonder and curiosity and decided to “create” my own. OK, I’ll admit it is not very original (I just used the template provided and modified the responses, time and tweaked it a bit), I actually got the “interactive script” used in the original American quiz to work for my quiz.

And here is the end result: Le 20 regioni d’Italia / The 20 Italian Regions. I use it to stimulate my students to memorize the regions. Does it work? Well, for those who actually do it…yes. I would love to be able to record scores so I can actually “know” what my students are doing, however, that is a challenge I have not yet managed to work through.

If you are so inclined, try it out and tell me what you think :/