Dave Snowden has started blogging, I’m delighted to say. And Festival of Bureaucratic Hyper-Rationalism and Tufte and Powerpoint are excellent. Just reading the posts and recalling presentations, I can feel myself losing the will to live.
His solution is common sense – and hence rare in too many cases.
There is a simple solution to that – only use good speakers and also train people to present.
Having chaired too many conferences where speakers were clearly using slides they’d be given and had no real training in how to present, it’s apparent that speaking ability is now the exception not the rule. And a poor speaker with a bunch of abstract bulletpoints in Powerpoint is surely the worst combination of all.
And anyone can fire up Powerpoint and fill in the blanks in the wizard that appears – and call that a presentation. No thought, no appreciation of the audience, no understanding of how to present the argument or tell the story. Just typing ability. And business jargon.
As an aside to demonstrate the lack of reality in Powerpoint slides, I recall an MBA exercise in 1995 where the presenting member of our team didn’t show on the night. Two minutes before showtime, I was handed the slides and asked to present a subject I knew little or nothing about (legal issues, if I remember correctly).
Presentation went fine, only when the lecturer asked questions did it all fall apart. If the slides had had anything other than the most banal abstract language, my improvised waffle would been impossible and my lack of legal knowledge would have been evident very quickly.