A long time ago, before death by PowerPoint
August 21, 2010
A long time ago — before PowerPoint was invented — in a galaxy far, far away, leaders gave presentations backed by large electronic wall displays. Below, for example, is a photo of General Dodonna (from Star Wars IV) briefing a packed room full of starpilots, navigators, and droids. Notice how he uses the entire wide screen to display only visual information, a digital vector animation of the inner workings of the death star. Notice too how he has gathered the troops close to the front, how he himself stands close to the back-lit screen (even slightly in front of it at times), and maintains eye-contact with the audience, occasionally pointing to key areas of the animation on screen.
Above: General Jan Dodonna stands and delivers with confidence and brevity.
Above: What the same presentation would look like while following conventional slideware templates found on present day planet Earth. "You can't see this well on this Micro Galactic ProjectionPoint, but an analysis of the plans provided by Princess Leia has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station. Follow this link at the bottom of the screen for more info if needed."
Above: Nothing inspires like a "thank you slide."
A New Hope for clear communication
Let's embrace the spirit of the Rebel Alliance and push back against Imperial template propaganda and the scourge of habit and conventional wisdom. If you have a large screen, use it to show visuals, not lines of text that remind you what to say. You do not have to use a screen, but if you do, use it to display visual information that illustrates or amplifies your message in the clearest way possible. Stand with your visuals, becoming a clear part of the visual experience from your audience's point of view. Do not stand meekly in the corner or behind a lectern, removed from both the audience and the bright screen. May the Force be with you in your next presentation and beyond.
• Contrasts in presentation style: Yoda vs. Darth Vader