Hello again, PowerPoint

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I have been involved in the first ever Weston-super-Mare Literary Festival, and also gave a talk to the local family history group. I wanted to have a presentation as well – partly to  reinforce and illustrate what I was saying but also for the audience to have something to look at apart from me. Just having one person standing up wittering on isn’t very engaging and it’s easy for the mind to wander… or the eyelids droop!

When I was teaching I loved my PowerPoints and began to have a particular way of doing them – I wanted them to enhance what I was saying, not distract and I wanted them to engage my students if I was being a  boring. I wanted them to be clear – large enough writing, and good, relevant  illustrations or diagrams  – definitely not fuzzy because they’d been enlarged. I would plan my presentation and then I would always run through it to myself loads of times. Once I’d shown it to a class I would usually edit it as things cropped up which I hadn’t noticed or realised, or I would see where things weren’t clear, or were muddled, or were just wrong.

I set to preparing my presentations for my two LitFest workshops and my talk. As with my students, I wanted the first slide to give nothing away – except there was a different reason with the students! If they walked into the classroom and saw the title and didn’t like it for some reason it would be an uphill battle… if they walked in and saw a picture, or a cartoon, or a joke (even a rubbish joke!) they would at least sit down and I could explain what we were going to do. With my workshop this wasn’t very likely to happen – I hoped, and was right in expecting a crowd of lovely and enthusiastic people!

For my workshops I had a picture of Weston on the screen…

… as it was Weston LitFest. I then had a brief introduction to me and my books…

As I proceeded through the talk, I illustrated my points, but did not have too many sides as it would be a distraction; however, when it came to the tasks I was setting, then I put up on the screen the picture stimulus I was using, a selection of faces I was using for the creative writing and the random objects for the blogging workshop.

When I gave the family history presentation I had to think differently; the talk was a talk not a workshop, I had a shorter time slot, and I had to engage with an audience with particular expectations.

When I began to prepare my ‘slideshow’ I was a little worried that I might have forgotten how to do it, or how to use a presentation – but I hadn’t! I was a bit rusty to be sure, and once I had done one of the workshops, I went back and tweaked my other PowerPoint, but it worked well… and I was glad I’d done them in the past! Big font, short sentences, titles to pictures – and relevant pictures, not too many gimmicks with words  flying in from unexpected places and images arriving in starbursts!

The other day I went to a lecture I was really looking forward to, on a subject I am passionate about. I sat on the front row, excited and expectant. The speaker began… he had a PowerPoint… and oh my goodness, I hate to be critical… but it was dull, dull, dull… tiny writing and sometimes lots of it, a few small smudgy black and white illustrations… and I confess, to my shame, and I do feel bad about it… my eyelids did droop, my mouth did gape, and I think I did nod off… on the front row, directly in front of the speaker… oh dear… the embarrassment…

Now I’m not saying that the same wouldn’t have happened if he’d had a really brilliant and engaging slideshow… I might have dozed… but maybe I wouldn’t!



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