Death by Powerpoint

Discussion in 'Officers' started by SpeckledJim, Aug 8, 2005.

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  1. Not sure whether this is the best Board for this, but what the hell. I've just sat through yet another presentation by a "Grown Up" who obviously knows his subject, but who is totally incapable of putting the message across. It got me wondering how much of my life I've wasted in lecture halls, listening to dull people talking about dull subjects. It’s always been so. First it was death by vu-foil, vu-foil on, vu-foil off. Then there were the slide shows, only enlivened when a slide got stuck and disintegrated in front of the audience. Then came PowerPoint. What fun we had then, sat in some drafty hall on arrse numbing benches, watching some hapless guy trying to get the damn thing to work. When the thing did work, we were treated with undecipherable text, mind-altering choices of colours and bizarre clip art. Its not all doom and gloom though, I've sat through presentations that were more like "Performance's" with cracking video clips, wizz bangs and text that flew in from all points of the compass. I haven’t a clue what the subjects were, but they were first rate performances. Being clever has it drawbacks though, a couple of instructors at our trg wing were always trying to out do each other and quite often one would find an additional slide slipped into his presentation - its amazing what they can train horses to do! Not very professional, but very funny, particularly when a sound clip is also added. I guess the key is make your presentation interesting and check your slides before you present. Anyone else been at/done a presentation thats gone totally t*ts-up?
  2. Try the NATO Staff Orientation course. Beats Chinese water torture any time.
  3. I give presentations frequently at work, using powerpoint only to highlight key points, or to show illustrations that provide a theme to the point I'm making. Because I'm really clever, I never use notes.

    I once had a round of applause and a lovely letter from UK LAND after giving a presentation there :: Thanks :: Sorry to big myself up, but army audiences are very forgiving once you've won them over in my experience. And you can have a proper laugh with them.

    Another odd experience was giving a presentation to the Senior Traffic Policing Manager's Course at Bramshill. I thought the audience would be pretty dull; in fact they asked some of the best and most challenging questions of any audience I've faced. Another lesson, which is never underestimate an audience.

    My pet hate is people who do a powerpoint presentation and then just repeat the text you've already read. Or people who walk in and read from notes.

    I take the view that it is a privilege to have a captive audience for forty-five minutes, and that you owe them at the very least a reasonably interesting and informative time.

    Of course, I am also a sociopathic/ egomaniacal personality type that enjoys public speaking, which also helps immesurably.

  4. You, Vegetius, are my hero!

    You make a fair point though- use PP for bullet points, not ALL your points!
  5. Ineed: reading off the slide is a pet hate of mine. I always ask myself 'does this presentation justify PowerPoint?' before I start planning it.

    A common problem I've seen is someone who gets sent of the Advanced PowerPoint ECDL, learns all the bells and whistles and then wants to include all of them in his next presentation!

    I was taught the principles of effective presentation at RMAS, but I got the feeling that most of my colleagues weren't listening. Mind you, my College lecturers were a damn sight worse than the average SNCO Instructor!

  6. Ah - Powerpoint slides with the presenter doing little more than reading the slides out. Marvellous stuff, but there is an extra level of inanity, where each attendee is given a printed copy of the slides.

    Mind you, the first time I had this joy was when a Management Consultant (note .. most letters in that title are usually redundant) from Praxis was spouting forth. All credit to him for persevering in spite of his habit of turning every R into a W. I wondered whether he was using a common script, or whether a kindly colleague had pwepared a scwipt with sevewal ocuwwences that he would have to wead out.

    Like everyone else in the room, I found myself going through the slides to find a read gem - by the smiles and nods around the table I think we all arrived at page 19 at about the same time. There were seven traps carefully laid in one sentence. One of those 'Biggus ......... Dickus ... Incontinentia ... Buttocks' ensued. Luckily someone got in a coughing bout first so it looked like we were laughing at him rather than 'Woger' from Pwaxis
  7. X-Inf

    X-Inf War Hero Book Reviewer

    Each issue seems to be building on the previous ones in this thread. Whiffler has it on the head about 'pre-prepared' powerpoints. Usually these are put together by someone who does not have to give, or listen to the presentation and are therefore dull as feck. I currently have to give a series of PPs on what could be an interesting subject. As this is a government programme being implemented nationally we are told that we are not permitted to change the presentations. Bollox.

    I do give out the presentations in the folders for people to take notes at the appropriate point, especially when I have moved away from the written script and started to try and get the audience thinking for themselves. If it is left as purely a presentation on a screen, in a darkened room with the presenter reading out a script and people learning by rote then you have an audience who has probably never heard a word.

    Powerpoint is a tool and that is all it is. The presenter/tutor is just that and should be able to reach his/her audience using all the tools at his/her disposal - PP being only one.

    Just my thoughts.

  8. I think there is something in the international charter on human rights which forbids PPT presentations which are either over 5 minutes in length, or delivered by anyone other than the author.

    We all get to depend on it, particularly when delivering to big audiences or for complicated stuff. I do love KISS though, and never read from the slides as everyone instantly drifts off to that zone somewhere between pre-coital anticipation and complete stupefaction.

    No that long ago I gave a short, mercifully, presentation while on a stage in a fairly full auditorium. It was one of those that has all the bells and whistles to lull you into a sense of foolish security, which cost millions and mean that the lads can't have swimming pool for at least another 5 years. We had the advantage that, although the screen wasn't visible to the presenters, there was a really gucci bit of kit in front of us which allowed visibility of the current display and a little touch screen to control what the audience could see. As a whole constellation was to attend we rehearsed about 10 times, starting about 5 weeks in advance and had it down pat.

    So everything sorted, prepared, practiced and more importantly approved, I took my place at the podium and drew those one or two deep breaths which help when you can sense you OJAR being written in close proximity. In good old fashioned public speaking style, I placed my hands firmly on the stand, to stop them waving about like a drunken helicopter marshall, and allowed air to pass over my larynx. Then, just before I subjected my now rapt audience with verbal machine-gunning they deserved and so obviously wanted, I took a momentary glance down at the monitor for that last minute, last second check it went as the podium moved about 0.00005 inches under the pressure of my arms. OH F*CK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Luckily the controller still seemed to be working, and we had practised so many times, that apart from my rapidly increased rate of breathing and frequent 0.00005 inch shuffles of the b*gg*ring thing, nobody noticed. I admit at this point that I rather arrogantly assumed they were actually paying attention. Possibly not and that's what saved me.

    At the end there were a couple of the usual polite questions and I managed to get away for a lie down and a well earned change of underwear.

    If it doesn't kill me it makes me a better person.
  9. Many moons back, my signature block used to say

    " never mind the estimate, do my slides look OK??"

    Sadly, all too often in an operational context, I have seen more effort going into producing a set of slides, than I have the Divisional intelligence estimate.

    See also: SO2 (FT) Face Time

    and Accentures:

    " when the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail"
  10. For pure PPT Jedi status, see how the Yanks use it. Even in Baghdad, I was often amazed at what they did with the humble slide.

    They are true Jedi Knights in the art of the laser mouse and pointer.

    I have never seen a Brit get near the standard they set.
  11. Can someone explain why, when I run a video clip it works fine on the laptop but conect the light probe and .....NOTHING?
  12. The light probe: sounds like that will be something from Andie's post in the Int cell above Strange vehicles + CCTV at Harlow 3G mast

    As my Pln Sgt at Mons always used to say:

    "You could try pressing the F8 key several times"
  13. dmi
    in the politest way possible
    but how crusty are you?
    bearing in mind the computer was barely invented when you did your commision?
  14. Seconded, BB. Here at Comined Forces Command - Afghanistan, we are winning the war against Terror, slide by slide. They are truly a rainbow-coloured work of art. Some of the more intricate slides on Judicial Reform look like something you may have seen in the jungles of 'Nam whilst on acid.
  15. Top Tips:

    Different people grasp ideas through different channels.

    Some like spoken words,
    Others prefer them written.
    Some (like me and Einstein) start every idea as a picture.
    Some real extremists (S Hawking for example) grasp reality through the medium of numbers.

    So don't use slides because YOU like them - dammit you already know what you're talking about [don't you?]
    Test your presentation against other people's preferences, and go with the slides that get the best response.

    MS Ppt offers you an opportunity to supplement and illuminate the words you speak (fluently, energetically and not-from-a-script-ically) with input via all of the other channels.

    Don't repeat in your slides the words that you are saying - it's boring.

    Worse still, don't use slides full of words different than those you are speaking: the part of the brain that listens to you speaking, is the same the same part that listens to its owner reading - because it can't listen to 2 speakers at once, sooner or later your audience will opt for for the sound of their own voice, inside their own head.

    While you are using the spoken word to convey ideas, use pictures, graphics and numbers to illustrate and reinforce them.


    Don't animate for it's own sake - it's fecking annoying. Use animation only to convey or reinforce ideas

    You only have one shot at briefing a grown-up. It's worth polishing the slides; you might be surprised what you can convey if you think in a combination of bullet points, pictues, and movement.

    On balance, the best combnation is:

    a. A speaker who knows his/her stuff, each of whose slides cue - and act instead of a script for - a particular strand of their presentation
    b. A low-text slide set which graphically illustrates what is being briefed
    c. Handouts of the graphical slides, issued in advance, and with enough space for notes.

    Lastly: For God's sake be energetic: I've got a 1982 SSVC video of Falklands veterans (all officers) describing the grim hand-to-hand fighting on Wireless Ridge. In the 10 yrs I've had it, I have never managed to stay awake through it: so much for charisma.