A great (and viral) design resource

"We are all designers," says Tom Peters. "Presentation of a financial report is as much a ‘design thing’ as is the creation of a sexy-looking product." Presentation design is worthy of our "extreme obsessive study," as Peters says, but so is design in general. If you're not a designer, you may feel that the personal study of design is superfluous. After all, design is for those artsy, creative types like that crazy guy on the web team down the hall whose cubicle is crammed with two hanging mountain bikes and a six-foot Buzz Lightyear doll draped in Christmas lights. Whoa.

But it's the little things that separate one product or service from another, and even one company from another for that matter. And design is one of those seemingly little things that is...well, huge. Design is one of those "small" details that separate the winners from the losers.

  Winning_1     Details

Raising your DQ (Design Quotient)
Even if we are not professional designers, it's in our in interest to become as educated about design as we can. It's in the interest of corporations, too, that employees become as design savvy as possible. Sadly, not all companies get that (yet?). But you get that, so forge ahead and educate yourself (and others as well) as you progress in your journey. You may not be a designer, but wouldn't it be great if you could add solid knowledge and understanding about design principles and concepts to your list of skills as you advance in your career? And to the real designers out there, wouldn't you love to live in a world where senior management completely "got design" at all levels of the company?

Design education: thousands of resources
So here's a great site called Design Education: thousands of resources (designeducation.ca). You absolutely must bookmark this site and revisit it from time to time (you can submit your recommended design-related sites at the bottom of the page). Professional designers and design students will find this site useful too. This site was started by Gustavo Machado and others. Hats off to them.

For now the site has a plethora of useful links (including some real gems) organized in various categories such as: Jobs, Advertising/Marketing, Photography, Typography, Web/Multimedia, Design blogs, and a ton of other great resources including many that are free (free photos, free fonts, free articles, etc.). Just a great site.


Just in case: backing up with the iPod

So you're going on the road to give an important presentation? What are you doing to backup your presentation visuals? What can you do to minimize the possibility of technical failures derailing your talk? Besides having a hardcopy of your main points (just in case all technology fails), what steps can you take just in case your notebook computer or PowerPoint/Keynote file decides to comply with Murphy's Law...and fail at the worst possible time? Whatever we do, we want to avoid putting ourselves in situations like this poor guy featured in this 1995 Apple TV commercial.

It's great if you can have two laptops connected to your projector, both with your slides open and ready to go. This way if one of your laptop freezes up, you can just switch (or toggle) to the other computer without missing much of a beat. Audiences understand that "stuff happens," and they will appreciate it if you show you've planned ahead and have a backup plan. Wasting time messing around with your computer, restarting, etc. will test the patience of your audience (to say the least).

2_macs_mw
Above: July 2001, New York City. Here my slides are running off the PowerBook on the left, the Mac on the right is connected and ready if needed (it never was).

If you do not have two laptops or do not want to be burdened with the weight on the road, what can you do? One option is to connect an iPod (which can display photos and has video out) to your projector and run your slides off of it in the unlikely event that your computer or PowerPoint has trouble. You connect your iPod to your projector (or TV) via the composite video cable.

The iPod does not run PowerPoint/Keynote directly, of course. Instead you export your slides to images (or Quicktime) and then import them into your iPod. You can advance your photos one at a time just like in PowerPoint. Go to Take Control of Your iPod: Running Presentations by Steve Sande for more details on how to do it. Engadget also had a post on this a couple of years ago. With the iPod connection kit, I should be able to use the dock and Apple remote to advance the slides on the iPod. I'm heading to Hawaii Saturday and then California later in the week for presentations, so I'll pick up the connection kit and see how it works.

  Garr_blogs_1
Above: The iPod is placed just out of sight, connected and ready just in case.

Even if you never plan to connect your iPod to the projector, at the very least it's another hard disk where you can store another copy of your PowerPoint file and take it along on the road with you. I also export my Powerpoint/Keynote files to Quicktime and to PDF just in case "all hell breaks loose" and my computer won't work -- any PC notebook onsite should be able to "play" a PDF of my slides on full screen mode.

Pdf_backup
Export your slides to PDF and you can run it on virtually any computer in full screen mode. Your audience will not even know it's a PDF.

There are myriad things you can do to backup. For me, one benefit of backing up is the peace of mind I get knowing that there is a plan B (or plan C, etc.) just in case. Worrying if the technology will work or not just adds too much stress to an already stressful situation. Anything you can do to relieve that stress is worth the time and effort.

Related video below.


Just in case: backing up with the iPod

So you're going on the road to give an important presentation? What are you doing to backup your presentation visuals? What can you do to minimize the possibility of technical failures derailing your talk? Besides having a hardcopy of your main points (just in case all technology fails), what steps can you take just in case your notebook computer or PowerPoint/Keynote file decides to comply with Murphy's Law...and fail at the worst possible time? Whatever we do, we want to avoid putting ourselves in situations like this poor guy featured in this 1995 Apple TV commercial.

It's great if you can have two laptops connected to your projector, both with your slides open and ready to go. This way if one of your laptop freezes up, you can just switch (or toggle) to the other computer without missing much of a beat. Audiences understand that "stuff happens," and they will appreciate it if you show you've planned ahead and have a backup plan. Wasting time messing around with your computer, restarting, etc. will test the patience of your audience (to say the least).

2_macs_mw
Above: July 2001, New York City. Here my slides are running off the PowerBook on the left, the Mac on the right is connected and ready if needed (it never was).

If you do not have two laptops or do not want to be burdened with the weight on the road, what can you do? One option is to connect an iPod (which can display photos and has video out) to your projector and run your slides off of it in the unlikely event that your computer or PowerPoint has trouble. You connect your iPod to your projector (or TV) via the composite video cable.

The iPod does not run PowerPoint/Keynote directly, of course. Instead you export your slides to images (or Quicktime) and then import them into your iPod. You can advance your photos one at a time just like in PowerPoint. Go to Take Control of Your iPod: Running Presentations by Steve Sande for more details on how to do it. Engadget also had a post on this a couple of years ago. With the iPod connection kit, I should be able to use the dock and Apple remote to advance the slides on the iPod. I'm heading to Hawaii Saturday and then California later in the week for presentations, so I'll pick up the connection kit and see how it works.
Garr_blogs
Above: The iPod is placed just out of sight, connected and ready just in case.

Even if you never plan to connect your iPod to the projector, at the very least it's another hard disk where you can store another copy of your PowerPoint file and take it along on the road with you. I also export my Powerpoint/Keynote files to Quicktime and to PDF just in case "all hell breaks loose" and my computer won't work -- any PC notebook onsite should be able to "play" a PDF of my slides on full screen mode.

Pdf_backup
Export your slides to PDF and you can run it on virtually any computer in full screen mode. Your audience will not even know it's a PDF.

There are myriad things you can do to backup. For me, one benefit of backing up is the piece of mind I get knowing that there is a plan B (or plan C, etc.) just in case. Worrying if the technology will work or not just adds too much stress to an already stressful situation. Anything you can do to relieve that stress is worth the time and effort.

Below is a 3:00 minute low-resolution video (taken with a still camera) where I show how you can present off an iPod. I'm just testing audioblogs to see how it works. The video is pure armature hour (I said "projector" and "PowerPoint" when I meant to say "PowerBook") but it took only minutes to make. If audioblogs works out, I'll use it to post better, more useful videos in future.


Nobody's perect

MistakesAre you just a little bummed out by your last presentation? Do you think you didn't do nearly as well as you could have? Perhaps you stumbled over your words, lost your place or your train of thought at one point. Maybe you got a little flustered when something didn't go exactly as planned. Well, don't worry about it. Little bloopers happen even to the absolute best presenters. Watch this video of Steve Jobs' various keynote imperfections over the years on the Tauquil.com website. Proof that even the best are not perfect.

No matter how good of a presenter you are, you will occasionally stumble over your words. You're human, after all. And regardless of how reliable you think your technology is, at some point it will fail you. Technology fails usually immediately after you praise its virtues to the audience: "You're going to love this new feature, ladies and gentlemen. Take a look at this new...um...<oh crap>...." We've all been there.

We strive for the perfect presentation, the perfect pitch. It is unobtainable. Yet, it is the small imperfections that make us human. It is the small imperfections that make it real. Still worried about not being perfect? You may enjoy, then, this helpful book, The Art of Imperfection.

In future I'll tell you my secret for backing up important presentations while traveling light on the road; kind of a "belt-with-suspenders" approach.


Presenting under fire: links to tips on keeping your cool

IcanthearyouYou thought you prepared your presentation well. But in spite of your best efforts, your presentation ended up being sabotaged by an audience member, who not only interrupted you on several occasions, but was rude while doing so. It seemed every time things started going well, this person mucked it up with an irrelevant comment or a sad attempt at humor, derailing your attempts to get your message across and connect with the audience. We all have our horror stories. But what to do about it next time?

Doing our homework and anticipating questions or "push-back" is crucial. But when the unexpected does happen, good general advice is to maintain our cool. Passion and enthusiasm are great, but displaying frustration or anger with an audience member rarely helps the situation; it usually makes things far worse. Keeping our own emotional response in check and displaying as much grace as we can is paramount.

Audiences can pick up on even the slightest bit of aggression or frustration. At the 2001 Macworld in New York Steve Jobs gave his usual "Jobsian-style" keynote. I was working on the Macworld floor during the keynote and could only hear the presentation in the background as I prepared for the day's show. Although Jobs' presentation was well over an hour long, what many people talked about after the keynote — and still talk about today — was Jobs "getting pissed-off" when he could not get the digital camera to work during the demo and "threw it" to an assistant. Really, it was not that big deal at all. But what it illustrates is how much even the tiniest hint of frustration (anger, etc.) will be picked up by an audience; sometimes it may be the only thing they remember about you. Not good.

Below, then, are links to articles which offer good advice for handling difficult audience members, even hecklers.

Dealing with difficult speaking situations (work911.com)
Advice from 3M on dealing with Hecklers (3M website)
Dealing with disruptive audience members (from Speakernet News)
How to handle difficult audiences (presentation-pointers.com)
 Handling various forms of audience disruption (refresher.com)
 Dealing with difficult audiences (effectivemeetings.com)
Dealing with difficult negotiators (negotiatelikethepros.com)
Presenting to difficult audiences (helpforschools.com)
Dealing with tough questions (findarticles.com)
Do's and don'ts for dealing with difficult people (findarticles.com)
Dealing with difficult people (findarticles.com)
Dealing with hecklers and "snipers" (findarticles.com)
Advice for stand-up comics (jessethecomic.com)
The BBC on why people heckle

Related books 
A Survival Guide for Working With Humans: Dealing With Whiners, Back-Stabbers, Know-It-Alls, and Other Difficult People  
Working with Emotional Intelligence
Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

Whatever you do, in civilized situations such as a business presentation or conference speech, never tell someone to "shut up!" Obviously this goes for interviews with the media as well. "Shut up" must be the single dumbest thing a person can say, even in a heated debate. Use this phrase, and you've lost. Watch this short TV interview with William Donohue to see how well he comes across when he yells "shut up" (twice).

Not everyone will like us or our message. Sometimes people will be unfair and even rude. That's life. But we are responsible for our own reputations so it's in our own best interest (and in the best interest of the audience at large) that we remain at all times courteous, gracious, and professional.


Presentation documents and writing for non-writers

Slide_notes_1A slide is not a document. Creating slides for your presentation and writing a supporting document (such as the takeaway handout) are two different things. Yes, I know. This is obvious. But how many people do you know who make a "handout" for their presentation by printing out their slides (six slides per page)?  When we attempt to "kill two birds with one stone" and generate slides that will also serve as handouts or a "document," we often end up with dreadful supporting slides for the talk and ambiguous, ineffective handouts for the takeaway document. Two weeks after the presentation these papers — with their promising coversheets but filled with small images of bulletpoint slides — can be painful to "read" (if they are ever read at all).

Author John Scalzi offers good writing tips for professionals who are not necessarily professional writers. The article is short, sweet, and excellent. If you have time, there are some good nuggets of wisdom in the comments section as well, currently at 146! (The exclamation mark proves, I suppose, what a hack writer I am. My apologies.)

OK. So the creation of presentation visuals, the delivery of a talk, and the writing of supporting documents are different animals. But there are some commonsense principles which apply to writing and presenting. A few of Scalzi's writing tips (listed in bold below), can be applied to the art of presenting as well. Here are four from his list of ten tips.

"Front-load your point." Make your point, then make your case. You do not want your audience (or your reader) saying to themselves "Where the @#&^%! is this going!?"

"Don't use words you don't really know." Sometimes people use big words to impress or sound credible or smart, etc. Whether it's writing or speaking, never try to impress. When we try to impress, we are thinking about ourselves and not about our audience. We must speak in a style that is natural, conversational, free of jargon, and clear. For example, instead of "I suffered a massive, humongous intel failure" how about "I screwed up"? (The level of your informality, of course, depends on your unique situation.)

"Read people who write well." I "learned jazz" by listening to and watching great jazz players. We can learn how to be a better presenters, in part, by watching and studying the famous and not-so-famous accomplished speakers and presenters of today and the past.

"When in doubt, simplify." I so love this point by Scalzi that I'm quoting almost the entire passage here (item number nine in the list of ten):

"Worried you're not using the right words? Use simpler words. Worried that your sentence isn't clear? Make a simpler sentence. Worried that people won't see your point? Make your point simpler. Nearly every writing problem you have can be solved by making things simpler.

This should be obvious, but people don't like hearing it because there's the assumption that simple = stupid. But it's not true; indeed, I find from personal experience that the stupidest writers are the ones whose writing is positively baroque in form. All that compensating, you know. Besides, I'm not telling you to boil everything down to "see spot run" simplicity. I am telling you to make it so people can get what you're trying to say."

                                                              — John Scalzi

Yes indeed. Simple and good writing. Simple and effective presentation. Useful, simple and beautiful design. These things are neither "easy" or "simple" to achieve for the creator. But the reader, listener/observer, and user will be
forever thankful for the effort.

Also checkout Hints for Revising by Brian Marick. Good tips there. Thanks to Coding Horror for these two great links.


Lessons from the Cluetrain: Imperatives for presenters

ConversationsIf you follow people like Hugh Macleod and Robert Scoble, etc., you know that we're living in the era of "the cluetrain." I first read the Cluetrain Manifesto four-five years ago. One of the central ideas in the book is this: markets are conversations and companies by a large do not get that (even if their employees do). Traditional ways of mass-media marketing need to adapt or get out of the way. What Cluetrain was talking about were changes in current company-to-consumer interactions, though their emphasis was on how technology and the web, among other things, was changing this interaction in a radical way. What the Cluetrain Manifesto is saying, at it's heart, is that communication matters and that the way we think about organization-to-customer communication needs to change.

It's all communication
Websites, intranets, message boards, email blasts, blogs, developer conferences, sales presentations, and CEO keynotes — it's about communicating. It all matters. Whether it's a blog, an e-news letter, or a presentation, what audiences and customers yearn for from organizations is authenticity and transparency, simplicity, and a real human, emotion-without-the-BS approach to communicating. A real conversation...for a change.

The Cluetrain tenets — the "95 Theses" at the beginning of the book — speak largely to wired communications. But it's all communication. While the "Theses" may not have been written with presentations in mind, many of the items fit nearly perfectly and can serve as good advice or reminders for how we need to connect and engage with our audiences today. Below are ten items (in bold) I took from the list of "95 Theses" in the Cluetrain (my comments follow).  I suggest purchasing the book, but you can get most of it free here.

Top-10 Cluetrain Theses: Imperatives for presenters

Cluetrain(1) "Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors."
Markets are not abstractions, and neither are our audiences. They're people worthy of our full attention and respect. If we can remember that it's about them and not about us...we're on the right path.

(2) "Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice."
I don't hate politicians and I don't hate marketers...but I hate the way they talk. "Mission-critical, forward-looking value propositions...." People do not talk that way! Many corporate speakers have a special gift for the "blah-blah-blah." Is anyone listening? Speeches and presentation do not have to be be stuffy and dull, but neither do they need to be hyped-up and shallow — your audience is praying you'll be different.

(3) "Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone."
Even if your presentation is directly sales related, you have to believe in your product (not the hype) deep down inside. I'm not talking about drinking the Koolaid kind of belief, I'm talking about believing in your product (your cause, research, etc.) like you believe in yourself. Speak to the audience like you respect them, like you think they are smart, like you think they are interesting. Don't be a TV commercial. Commercials more often than not insult us. And even when they're clever, we don't really care and soon forget because...they're not real.

(4) "Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor."
The best presenters take their cause and their audience very seriously...but they do not take themselves too seriously. They are relaxed...they have nothing to hide. At that moment, nothing could be better than sharing time with the audience, and the audience feels that.

(5) "Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived."
Your speaking does not have to be perfect. In fact, perfect speech and too much polish may alienate a crowd. It's not real. Each case is different, but an open, natural, friendly, relax approach — away from the podium — is usually best. People pay more attention to a natural, open voice. And few things are more boring for a crowd than the reading of a long manuscript from a podium.


(6) "By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay."
If you want your talk to fail, simply build a wall between you and your audience. There are many ways to do that: Speak in abstractions, stand in the dark, insult the competition, speak too long, create dreadful visuals, be evasive, and on and on.

(7)"Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be 'picked up' at some tony conference."
You can learn a lot from presentation coaches and communication books, but this is not rocket science. We can be much better by simply looking at the presentation as an opportunity to have a conversation with others about something we care about. All the technique, training, and "PowerPoint" tricks are useless if the talk doesn't come from your gut, from your heart and soul.

(8) "The inflated self-important jargon you sling around — in the press, at your conferences — what's that got to do with us?"
Never try to impress. It didn't work in high school (lord knows I tried) and it won't work with your audiences (or your markets) either. A good presentation is like a good blog: it's transparent, unique, fresh, honest, authentic, and accurate even if not perfect.

(9) "If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change."
Most sales presentations are designed by committee and sent to people in the field with scripts in the PowerPoint notes view. No wonder the presenter sounds distant and "corporate."

(10) "De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you."

As the Cluetrain authors say, people "...do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations..." The best presentations feel like a conversation.

Checkout Microsoft's Robert Scoble's presentation at the LIFT conference in Geneva last Friday. The content is relevant and his style is a good example of a more human, more engaging approach to a presentation. Sure, it is not perfect, it is not slick or polished, but it is good and it is genuine. (See "Robert Scoble Überblogger at Microsoft" last presenter on Friday). 

Other online examples of good presentations?


Dealing with presentation anxiety

Sex_stressMost people get nervous at the thought of having to present in front of a crowd. Is there something in our DNA that makes us fear crowds? Perhaps there was (is?) an evolutionary advantage to staying low and not being noticed by predators, including the human variety. No matter the reason, it's a fact that standing in front of a group of people is freighting to many and provokes varying degrees of anxiety among the rest, including seasoned presenters and entertainers. So what can you do to calm your nerves?

Have sex?
The BBC reports today on some new research that says "Sex cuts public speaking stress." Interesting, but I think we already know that sex can reduce stress (depending on the circumstance). But as Peter Bull, a psychologist from the University of York who was interviewed for the BBC article said, "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say and preparing thoroughly." (Thanks, Colm, for the link).

Preparedness and practice create confidence and reduce anxiety
Here's what I said on my website about confidence and presentation anxiety: The more you are on top of your material the less nervous you will be. If you have taken the time to build the logical flow of your presentation, designed supporting materials that are professional and appropriate, there is much less to be nervous about. And, if you have then rehearsed with an actual computer and projector (assuming you are using slideware) several times, your nervousness should all but melt away. We fear what we do not know. If we know our material well and have rehearsed the flow, know what slide is next in the deck, and have anticipated questions, then we have eliminated much (but not all) of the unknown. When you remove the unknown and reduce anxiety and nervousness, then confidence is something that will naturally take the place of your anxiety.

Exercise matters
No amount of sex the night before will make you a better presenter if you are not prepared (obviously). And I would take this study reported on by the BBC with a grain of salt. Still, if you are well prepared, exercise including a swim in the hotel pool, yoga, or a jog in the park (etc.) followed by a good night's sleep can be a huge help. If I'm on the road I go for a long jog/walk in the AM as well. This reduces stress and also allows me time to visualize the presentation, to anticipate questions, etc.

Other tips for dealing with presentation anxiety? Love to hear what's worked for you.


Where to get quotations for presentations?

Tea_womanbwIn my presentations, I may have several slides which feature a quote from a famous (sometimes not so famous) individual in the field. The quote may be a springboard into the topic or serve as support or reinforcement for the particular point I'm making. A typical Tom Peters presentation at one of his seminars, for example, may include dozens of slides with quotes. "I say that my conclusions are much more credible when I back them up with great sources," Tom says in this post from May, 2005. (I talked about using quotes a few months back here with examples.)

Like everything else, quotations work best when not over done. Too many quotes or quotes which are too long may bog down your presentation. And of course, if your quote is inaccurate or completely irrelevant to your point, it may undermine your efforts in a big way.

Where to get quotes?
Personally, I do not search for quotations on the internet very often. I almost always get mine straight from material I have read directly. My books for, example, are filled with tags and pages full of my comments and highlighter marks. I sketch a star and write a note to myself next to great passages for future reference. It's kind of messy, but it works for me. Still, there may be occasions when poking around one of the quotations pages may be of help. So below I have listed a few of the many places you can check for quotations. I'm certain there are even better resources, so please let me know and I'll update this post to make it better.

Tom Peters' slides from his website
As Tom says "we post all my slide shows so attendees can go back at their leisure and recall the logic of the presentation and "steal" some cool quotes to use in their presentations!" If nothing else, a look at the sources in Tom's slides may point you to the original material for deeper research.
Tom Peters' "Top 41" quotes and other free stuff
Various PDFs from TP. Excellent.

Wikiquote
Quotes, proverbs, etc. in several languages (thanks, Pawel!).
Yahoo's list of quotation sites
One of the best places to start. You can search sites on Yahoo popularity or alphabetically.
The brainy quote
Thousands of quotes by thousands of authors. Search by topic, author, or profession.
Famousquotations.com
Good selection. Searchable.
The Quotations page
Over 24,000 quotes, 2,700 authors
Quoteland.com
Many categories.
Quotationreference.com
Searchable by author or subject.
Famous quotes and quotations
Searchable and organized in a few broad categories.
Quotelady.com   
Organized by category here.
Great-Quotes.com
Over 54,000 famous sayings, proverbs, and quotes.
Quotation resources by about.com
Different.
Bartlett's Quotations
11,000 searchable quotations from literature
Business-related
Not great, but may be some gems in there.
Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina
By Daniel Kurtzman
Dr. Gabriel Robins' "Good quotations by famous people"
Interesting list by a CS prof.
Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations
A lot of categories but especially philosophy, religion, politics...
World's best quotes in 1-10 words
I like this short list from Career Lab.
Zen Quotes
A few quote from the world of Zen
Using quotes effectively
A few tips from the Idea Bank

Note: The photo of the woman making tea in the sample slide above was snapped by me about a year ago in Kobe. (You may notice something a bit odd about it — extra points for anyone who can guess what it is...).

 


Talking at them vs. talking with them

Last week, Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture was shown in Stockholm. You can see the video of his speech as well as the transcripts (English, Swedish, French, German). Depending on your political leanings, your appreciation for the content of his speech may vary greatly indeed. But I think it is quite provocative, important, and worth a look.

Pinter on political theatre
I found Pinter's thoughts on writing political theatre interesting. With regards to political theatre, Pinter says,

"Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles,  from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will."

Again, Pinter is talking about writing good political theatre, of course. Still, he is talking about communication of ideas and I think we can apply a bit of his thinking to our own presentation approach. For example, is this (below) not good advice for many of us when presenting?

  • Avoid sermonizing
  • Be as objective as possible
  • Do not constrict or confine your audience, but engage them
  • Approach your topic and your engagement with the audience from a variety of angles. Surprise them. Allow them the opportunity to challenge, clarify, and offer up other opinions.

In part because of the "cognitive-style" of PowerPoint, many business and academic presentations inhibit engagement, interaction, and an "open-minded exploration of the truth." The "death-by-PowerPoint" approach treats the audience as if they were drones. And if not drones already, at least the presenter can hope with this approach that with enough didactic pitching of data, and ambiguous and superfluous visual material, the audience will become drone-like. In this presentation approach, you subdue the audience, beat them to death. Then in the end when there are few objections, you say that you are successful. You say that your audience got it. Understood it. And agree with it. Look, no objections!

An important question to ask
We should ask this question: Are we speaking at our audience or with them? If a speaker assumes he already knows all there is to know about the topic — or is simply not interested in hearing another side — he will tend to speak at an audience. This could be true regardless of whether slideware is used or not, though slideware may emphasize his dominance. Slideware itself, if one is not careful, could indeed make the presenter's whole approach seem pushy, overbearing, and one uninterested in debate or discussion. Says Edward Tufte, "PowerPoint's pushy style seeks to set up a speaker’s dominance over the audience. The speaker, after all, is making power points with bullets to followers...." Tufte goes on to say in this Wired article from 2003, "Could any metaphor be worse? Voicemail menu systems? Billboards? Television? Stalin?"

Stalin?
I don't know about Stalin, put the PowerPoint-aided presentation approach of many business people and academics today — and the rhetorical approach of many politicians today behind the podium or in front of the camera — reminds me of the scene from the Nineteen Eighty-Four
inspired TV commercial (called "1984") created to launch the first Macintosh computer. This commercial was created long before people used slideware (1983), but it is interesting to see how the "big brother" figure, energized with belief, conviction, and sound bites, dominates and talks at his dazed audience.

      1984_head   1984_ppt
Both screen shots above are from the actual commercial. Left: The "big brother" figure gives his "presentation" complete with text (running below his chin) and other on-screen "data." Right: A passive audience absorbs the speakers wisdom (as the heroine enters to save the day). Notice the slideware-like text of the speech projected on the back of the auditorium. It seems the creators thought this would be the kind of multimedia communication experience you would see in a nightmarish, didactic, presentation in a future dystopian society. It is quite interesting — some would say disturbing — that many presentation situations today are not too dissimilar to the fictitious, far-fetched scene in this 60-second TV commercial created in 1983 for a computer company.

            1984_screen2_3
Above: A screen shot edited in Photoshop with the text of the speaker's content appearing in bullet point slideware style.
"We shall prevail." I assume this is an intentionally ironic choice of words since this kind of communication approach is not interested in "we" except in the sense that "we" (that is, "us") must capitulate. And in real life, too, often audiences do capitulate, or at least appear to do so either out of boredom, resignation, or simple relief (joy?) that the speaker is finally finished.

See the original 1984 TV commercial here. The Curt's Media site also has a good discussion on the making of the video. This is still regarded as the "best commercial ever" in many circles.   

Note:
(In this post I did not elaborate at all on the real meat of Pinter's speech for it is far outside the scope of this site. Two quick comments, however: (1) Seeing the speech on video, after having read the transcripts, made it very clear to me how much Aristotle was right — the pathos and the ethos are extremely powerful proofs. Reading the contents was one thing, but listening to the man and seeing his face and getting the content was quite another. Actually, I am quite interested to hear your thoughts on the "presentation" of his ideas in Sweeden as well. For example, how different might it have played in front of a live audience? (2) I feel a bit uneasy even referencing Pinter's speech at all because the importance of his content — whether you agree with him or not — is infinitely more important than the simple contents of this website, presentation design. In the whole scheme of things, of course, the items we talk about on this website don't amount to much at all really.)