Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How to Make an Effective Presentation

My school division is in the midst of studying "structural innovation". It struck a committee in the fall of 2009 made up of teachers and administrators who were interested in studying this more in depth. They were sent to other schools, mostly in the US, to observe and gather information about alternative school structures. I wish I had been able to join this committee, but couldn't find the time to fit it into my schedule this year.

This week, I made the effort to attend three days of after school presentation blocks about what the committee members had seen during their travels. In all, I sat through 10 Power Point presentations. All, but one, were bullet-point style presentations. (The exception being a video made by students in a school in Australia talking about being independent learners.)

By the third day, I had seen enough bullet points to last me a lifetime. I'm guessing by the style of the presentations, the presenters were limited in what they could say or were asked by the division to produce a Power Point that could be officially approved and then be distributed. For me the end result was a blur of information and an inability to recall what school had what structure. The only exception was the school in Australia. I can clearly remember what the students said in the video.

The fact that the video was the most memorable part of all of these presentations says to me that the presenters would have been better off presenting photos or videos taken of their schools and then constructing their presentation around that. They could still have had a hand-out to distribute with more information, but more visuals would have been helpful.

In reflecting on this experience, I think that more time needs to be spent in teaching the art of using presentation tools, such as Power Point, to educators and students in general. I don't mean this to be a criticism of the presenters themselves, I just think that there has to be a better way to support presentations then projecting handouts up on the big screen and then reading them to me.

I enjoyed watching this stand-up comic as he talks about "How Not to Use Power Point":


Finally, I remembered hearing once that a presentation should be a summary of the handout and that the handout shouldn't be a summary of the presentation. I try to keep this in mind when I'm giving a workshop or a presentation. I'm just wondering what advice other people might have for those giving presentations so that they don't get caught in the "bullet trap" of Power Point?

-Photo by Photo Mojo on Flickr.com