Making a presentation at ACHE or TACHE?

Farhad Manjoo in Slate has some good PowerPoint advice.  PowerPoint is ubiquitous at continuing education conferences, so much so that conference planner routinely place projectors in all meeting rooms.  If you use the hotel's equipment, this is a huge expense.  ACHE recently figured it would be cheaper to buy projectors for the national conference, use them once, and give them away as door prizes than to use the hotel projectors.

So when should you reach for PowerPoint? Only when your talk satisfies two conditions, says Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. The two iron laws of PowerPoint: You must be speaking to a large audience, and your topic must benefit from visuals. The visuals are key—your images and numbers must be of the sort that can be understood by people far away. You can't present a list of numbers or a complex math equation on a screen. "Having a visual is generally better than not having a visual," Reynolds says. "But having bad visuals is much worse than not having a visual."

To take an extreme example, then, PowerPoint wouldn't have been the right choice for the Gettysburg Address. Yes, Lincoln was speaking to a large audience, but any visuals (a graphic showing one new nation born 87 years ago, say) would have detracted from the solemnity of the moment. On the other hand, look at this excerpt of An Inconvenient Truth. Notice that nearly every one of Al Gore's slides presents a clear, compelling image that clarifies the point he's making in his talk. That's the way to do it. (A firm called Duarte Design helped Gore create his slides; they used Apple's Keynote software, not PowerPoint.)


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