Wednesday, 15 August 2007

"Homogeneity is great for milk, but not for ideas"

I have to give a presentation in a few weeks time at ALT-C, in Nottingham. I started to think today about getting the details together to build my talk with. The nice people at ALT have sent some presenters guidelines which I decided to read - they're only 3 pages long and really rather useful (I'll come back to reading documents of greater than 10 phrases in length later....)

One of the links was advice from Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google. I am effectively his warm up man at ALT-C (I speak in the session before him.... if you don't count the theme summaries which I am not....)

So there is a page about PowerPoint presentations (Shot By Its Own Bullets) which I found myself thinking "Oh dear, that's me" as I read through it.... It is also where the title for this post came from....

Delving a bit deeper, I found Edward Tufte's page where he looks the way NASA use ppt to deliver (or rather obscure) technical information. Look out for 6 levels of heirarchy to represent 11 phrases....fantastic. And only ever concepts that fit onto one slide!

And a while ago I found this on YouTube. I've sat through talks like this and not laughed (but I think I will be unable to help myself next time).

All this got me thinking as to whether I could (I knew I should) try and do something different this year in my ALT-C talk. I'll probably still use ppt but will try and move away from BulletLand and ... not read out every word on every slide. This could be painful, but worth it.
It's worth a shot anyway.....

This particular disease (ppt that is) could be in part responsible for something else I am coming up against more and more these days. Twice in the last week I have been told by colleagues:
"You can't possibly expect me to read all that / find it in that / notice that - it is N pages"

Here N is usually between 5 and 25. Twice this week when I have encountered this, N was 6 and 16. Interestingly it was (supposedly) academic colleagues who could not be expected to read 6 pages and students who were not going to read 15.

Why is this? Is it because we all get force-fed bullet points and snippets? I shall go and try and learn the art of speaking again for my talk instead of reading......