Thursday, May 11, 2006

Beyond Bullet Points

Some of my friends at Microsoft (Mike, Simon) are excited (Mike says "gung ho") about Cliff Atkinson and his "new" presentation style, based on the work of psychology professor Richard E. Mayer.

On Cliff's website, there is a 15-page free download called Five ways to reduce PowerPoint overload (pdf). Good stuff, mostly. No doubt many people will make do with the free download, and won't get around to buying the whole book.

But I am afraid I found Cliff's blog extremely off-putting. Every post seems to be about HIM.
  • Join ME for a no-cost web seminar
  • Please participate in MY survey
  • LA Times writes an article about ME
  • Microsoft Press is publishing MY book
  • Check out the recording of MY seminar
For more content and less ego, I recommend the Presentation Zen blog, where Garr Reynolds spends most of his time appreciating (and encouraging his readers to learn from) a variety of great presenters - including comedians and musicians as well as professional speakers.

Other useful sources on PowerPoint include Edward Tufte and Seth Godin.

Bill Gates has been widely criticized for his poor presentation style [summary]. At Mix06, he abandoned PowerPoint and spoke without slides [review]. A distinct improvement, although he is never going to be a natural speaker like Steve Jobs [video links]. But then Steve Jobs was sometimes criticized for his weak strategic thinking [comment]. Which is more important - smooth presentation, or strategic thinking?

Like any tool, PowerPoint needs to be regarded as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Sometimes the right thing is not to use it [Garr, Seth]. Microsoft certainly understands this better now.

Related Posts: The PowerPoint Collection

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