Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alone in Fighting the Good Fight

Back in October I talked at the seminar series. Today I got an email from someone asking, "Can I get a copy of your presentation?"

I had nine slides. Here's what was on them:
  1. Instructions to get the handout and the URL of where the data set (information about the ocean) is available.
  2. Acknowledgements.
  3. A map of the ocean created, during the previous session, from the data set. No words on the slide except, "Recap: Last week"
  4. An improved map that was also rendered during the previous session. Still the only words are, "Recap: Last week."
  5. Another, even better map, from the same data set. Only words are, "Same data this week."
  6. Yet another map, still from the same data set, still with the words, "Same data this week."
  7. And another map (yes, same data, yes same words).
  8. And, yes, another map (yes, same data, yes same words).
  9. A list of software to have installed on one's laptop to do the hands-on exercises during the next session.
Yes, that's right, my talk was a hands-on session on how to use the software, so I did not make slides with screenshots of dialog boxes. I closed the freakin' slide software, opened up the software that I was teaching, had the students open the software that I was teaching, and we all went through and made some maps from the data about the ocean.

My ultimate goal is to give talks with no slides -- or at the very least no words on the slides. All the words that people normally put on the slides end up in at least one of the following two places:
  1. If they are things that I want to be sure that I say, I will write them down as notes that I bring with me to the talk.
  2. If they are things that the audience should know for the future, I will type them up into a handout that I will distribute on paper and/or electronically.
Back when I was in the fifth grade we learned how to give a presentation. Nowhere in that unit did anyone ever tell us to take our notes and project them on a screen so that the audience could read them along with us. We were told to make visuals that were easy to see from the back of the room and that helped the audience to understand what we were talking about. Wordy slides riddled with bullet-points don't seem consistent with what Mrs. Meyer taught us about good presentations.