What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?
I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:
- Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
- Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
- Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
- Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
- Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
- Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
- Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
- Clipart – Please. Don’t.
- Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t.
If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?
Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).
If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.