Apr 15, 2009

Death by Powerpoint

I confess to being one of those hated by Ralph Souleon - using lots of powerpoint slides in conference presentations - comes with the territory in an engineering field. Content. Content. Content.

Several years ago I was asked to email in my presentation for an engineering conference - so I pdf'd it to get the size down for emailing.

The conference was held at Sydney's Royal Randwick Racecourse - at the time when the Equine Influenza epidemic had shut down horse racing in Sydney - only a lone horse seen out on the track. And that was how I felt at the podium, when my pdf'd powerpoint developed compatibility issues with the venue's hardware.

Innumerable black rectangles where my witty & informative text box captions were supposed to be. Slides and slides of them. At least the photo's & images looked good. The session moderator couldn't help. Gulp.

Time for a deep breath and "wing it".

At least the subject was a field which I was confident and passionate about. I had to use the images as my prompts as I told their stories.

In fact the moderator commented later that because the text boxes were missing - my audience had to engage with me more. He kindly observed that it had enhanced my presentation overall. I hoped he was right.

The conference was one where participants rated all the speakers - not often done - but in fact a good idea. As a speaker you can appreciate the bouquets and learn from the other comments.

So I was relieved to find that some had rated me as best presentation - which was humbling as there were some very good presentations at the conference.

So I try to make my Forensic Engineering Failure Analysis conference presentations more visual - but content can't be avoided altogether in an engineering presentation. And never leave home without a memory stick backup - even if the presentation has been already emailed.

And it all came together for me a year or two later, when David Snowden observed at ACTKM 08 that voluminous stats, facts & numbers don't convince - but stories do.

1 comment:

Panda said...

Always carry your presentation in 3 different file formats and keep a copy on your thumb drive, in your webmail inbox and on a CD :)

I hate it when I have a photo that looks really good on the screen of my computer but looks poor on a cheap projector (poor contrast/brightness).