Why would you use words on the screen when they do just fine in your mouth?
David Jakes and Dean Shareski show us that it's not just what you say, but how you say it. It's 21 years since PowerPoint was invented, 21 years since we've had to relearn how we communicate, to get away from the bullet-point death into which many of us were induced throughout the nineties and right up to the current day.
1. Teach them biology
When we experience a presentation we experience it in two ways - through the auditory nerves (ears) and the optical nerves (eyes). The brain is geared up to seeing above all else: 30% of the cortex is devoted to visual processing, only 8% for touch and 3% for hearing. So, biology tells us that our presentations must be, above all, visual.
2. Teach them to make it visual
PowerPoint doesn't kill presentations. Bullet points do. We need to move our students away from text-based presentations. The text is in what we say.
"Why would you use words on the screen when they do just fine in your mouth?" Seth Godin.
It's not about killing all the words in a presentation, but if you remove most of them then the presenter has to internalise the content. Great for learners. But great for listeners, too. Our cognitive load will tend to move into overload if we have too much going on through the screen as we listen to the words from the presenter.
3. Teach them how to find images
Flickr is great for finding images, but Flickrstorm is another alternative, which makes it easier to search within the creative commons images contained on Flickr, add them to your tray of photos, and download all of them at once, providing you simultaneously with the original URL of each picture. iStockphoto is a pay-for site but gives an exceptional quality of image. The best part for presentations, is that images can be searched for with white space in particular areas. Tell the advanced search that you want to have images with whitespace in the top left corner, so that your text there can be legible, and it will return images that suit your means perfectly.
4 Tell them how to respect Creative Commons
Creative Commons is the licence that tells people how they can use your content in their own sites or project, legally. There are several types of licence which are important to understand. Not everyone does, so it needs taught, not caught.
5. Teach them design
Design is often seen as the thing that we get around to eventually, "if there's enough time to get to it". Design is key. It's the first thing we need to consider. It changes the way we develop our original idea so fundamentally, we're best to approach things from a design perspective from the outset.
The first thing we need to do is strip away the template that came with the presentation package. We also need to strip away anything that's minor, that we can simply add in passing. Then, can we reduce what's left to once sentence, with an image that speaks 1000 words telling us everything we need to know, along with the oral presentation that we're giving.
6. Teach them to sell
In libraries we see children copy and paste chunks of text, learning nothing about that particular topic. Children need to learn how to craft and sell a message. Communication is the transfer of emotion (another Godin-ism).
7. Colour and font choice matters
Fire trucks are becoming yellow - it's the most noticeable colour in our spectrum. Green signifies renewal for most cultures. Red signifies alertness or anger in most cultures. Americans do indeed seem to have a preference for the colour blue, deep blue signifying trust. Combining national preference with the most flashy colour leads Blockbusters and Goodyear to the logos they have.
"Comic sans is illegal in 34 States," says Jakes. Serif fonts help you move from one word to the next, great for when you're reading. But in presentations you don't want your audience to be reading - you want them to be listening to you. Therefore, in presentations we need to use Sans Serif fonts. With American audiences, avoid the use of Helvetica - it's used by the Inland Revenue Service.
8. Teach them to incorporate multimedia
Everything on the web these days, if it's worth watching, has the word <EMBED> next to it. But if YouTube or Google Video is blocked in your school district then students need to learn how to use Vixy or ZamZar to convert online video at home to a hard file they can import into their presentation.
9. Teach them some PowerPoint secrets
Pressing the button B makes the PowerPoint go blank. W makes the screen go white. Typing the number of a slide will take you to a slide, even if it's a hidden slide that we didn't see in the main presentation.