Zen and the Art of Powerpoint

Like most people, I regularly assert that Powerpoint is evil (I wrote something about this a couple of years back). I often use it when I present, but I’ve been undertaking ongoing experiments to make it work the way it should. It should augment what I’m saying, as opposed to distracting from or summarizing what I’m saying.

Much has been said about Julie Leung’s excellent presentation at Northern Voice and Gnomedex. She only used photos–no (or few) words.

This was very theatrical, and resonated with me. Projections are regularly used in modern theatre, and are exceptionally effective when done right. Back in the mid-nineties, I directed a theatre-in-education show called “The Cost of Living” by Dennis Foon. It’s a one-man show about sexual responsibility and AIDS. Near the end of the play, the performer delivered a speech only by the light of a projection–a giant vial of blood that fell across his body. Obvious? Yes, but it seemed to resonate with the kids.

I gave a talk on Web 2.0 stuff a few weeks ago, to a small audience in a company. I used the pictures-only strategy (photos and screenshots). I thought it went over well, so I’m thinking of trying it again at my upcoming CPRS talk. I’ve also admired Dick Hardt’s (apparently nicked from Lawrence Lessig) rapid, highly synchronized monologue style. It’s highly formalized, and would require more rehearsal, but very slick. I wonder, does Dick have some kind of functionality in his presentation software that displays the next few slides, so that he can keep ahead of what’s on-screen? I did read on Dick’s blog about this cool app for turning your phone into a remote control for your computer.

All of this, I suppose, is a very long winded route around to this interesting examination of the Apple and Microsoft schools of Powerpoint.


  1. >> does Dick have some kind of functionality in his presentation software that displays the next few slides

    At least PowerPoint has. You need a two-monitor-setup and should give the presentation mode a try. You end up with your normal presentation on the main screen and an overview of prev/next slides as well as your notes on the secondary screen.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: