Presentation Zen


I got this book about a month ago and have just got round to reading through it. It presents ideas that have made me think about how I give presentations.

After all that is what I spend a significant part of my life doing. As a teacher I am constantly giving presentations; they may be broken up with lots of other activities; however in nearly every lesson I will spend some time infront of the class presenting material.

A key point that is raised in the first text is that having the same information coming out of the mouth of the presenter as written on the PowerPoint is pointless. The author argues that it is difficult to read and listen at the same time; and if you remain silent and let the audience read the text, why are you there. He goes on to say that a good oral presentation is different than a well written document – and if you attempt to produce both you are going to produce poor results.

Within the book there are four tips to improve your PowerPoint slides immediately:
1. Make slides to reinforce your words not repeat them – no more than six words on a slide, ever.
2. Don’t use cheesy images, use professional quality clear and crisp images.
3. No disolves, spins or other transitions.
4. Create an accompanying written document to leave behind that can include more detail including footnotes and references.

The rest of the book goes into more detail with regards to diffferent techniques and ways to lay out presentations. For example there is a Japanese presentation technique called Pecha-kucha. A presentation of 20 slides each remaining on the screen for 20 seconds. This results in a tight presentation of 6 minutes 40 seconds. This would be useful as a task to set sixth form students when presenting material.

The rest of the book gives a variety of ideas for inproving presentations which I will try out at a later date.

It is a useful book that has made me reflect on the PowerPoints that I produce; though I use less than I did when I first started teaching – this is in part because I don’t have the time. I think that I am particularly guilty of giving ‘bad presentations’ when I am teaching my sixth form. This is due to the fact I usually have a large amount of content to get through in limited time so feel obliged to get lots of bullet points on the screen for them to copy down. I am going to try a different technique. Instead I will have some slides with images, which I will talk through; and we will then discuss as a class. I will then give them a printed set of notes that relate to the material that they can use for revision.

I will attempt it next week and blog with the results.