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In a few moments I need to wrench my mind back to school-related work: I’ll be presenting a talk on Monday to my Public Speaking class on how and why to use, and how and why NOT to use, a PowerPoint Presentation. I have a few sources to draw upon, but the one I think most highly of is a post over at Creating Passionate Users, which I’m not going to link to directly from here, because I don’t need a trackback from that post leading to this blog — one of my students knows about this site, and that’s enough for now, until I retool it into a site focused on my writing alone. (However, if you go to Creating Passionate Users, and look under June 2005, you’ll find the presentation “Stop your presentation before it kills again!”, which is the post I mean.)

My gimmick or schtick is to pull out every bad example of what a PowerPoint-centered presentation can contain. I’m going to make every mistake possible, inflict a horrible presentation of about 20-25 minutes, and then provide the students with a few simple axioms for them to use when they critique my presentation. Then, I’ll whip out something simpler and which, hopefully, works a lot better.

What’s weird is that not only can every student save one use PowerPoint, but they all seem to think that it’s essential for a “professional” or “business” presentation. So I think I’m also going to bring up the point that Kathy brings up often at Creating Passionate Users, which is that if you’re doing whatever everyone else is doing, and what’s expected, then even at best you’re only being mediocre and unmemorable. I shall have to hammer away at this, and mention that, yes, even in Korea, it’s the person who gives the surprising, different, but still-very-professional presentation, that will get you remembered. Visuals does not always equal PowerPoint. PowerPoint isn’t always necessary, or a good idea, and more often than not, it detracts from a speech.

The scary part? This is the first time I’ll be using anything like PowerPoint: I have a feeling my BAD slide presentation will be extra bad because of this; I have more serious doubts about my ostensibly “good” one. But we may not even get to that. It may be that we’ll do the crit, I’ll hand out the Kathy Sierra article, and that will be that.

I think the accompanying homework assignment will be team presentations, where two groups have to prep a really good PowerPoint presentation, and two groups have to prepare a really awfully bad one, all trying to sell different products, or maybe trying to get one of the group members elected as mayor of the city, or something.

UPDATE: About two and a half hours later, I’m finished! I have one very awful Presentation about the change of perception about vampires from Scary creatures to Sexy Creatures, and then a much longer and more graphics-oriented presentation set up which debunks this idea, and basically says the sexual-danger thing has pretty much been a part of the vampire mystique since Dracula, and that kids taking it up and running with it in the modern era has more to do with questioning other mainstream “uniform/lifestyle” combos, from the supermodel to the power suit.

I used OpenOffice Impress, and I basically taught myself how to use it while I did up these two presentations. I can’t imagine using it for classes very often: it’s so time-consuming, I’d only ever create a presentation like this if I knew I were going to be using it again and again.

Now, I’m going to try to see if I can save the presentations as self-executing, single files, or whether I’ll need to install OO.o2.0 over on the classroom PC come Monday.

UPDATE 2: Oooh, oooh, I found the export to PowerPoint function– it was in “Save As”, that’s all. I knew there had to be one somewhere.

In the comments, EFL Geek expressed disappointment that I hadn’t uploaded the slideshows, so I’m going to provide them here:

First Vampire PowerPoint

The talk will focus on bewilderment at how the Vampire changed from a scary critter to a sexy critter, made-up statistics about how depictions of the vampire have shifted from scary images to sexy images, notes on how to recognize a vampire (real or fashion-only) when you see one, and what to do if this happens.

Second Vampire PowerPoint

The talk will focus on popular conceptions of the role of the vampire in Western pop culture, changes that have occurred from the time of Stoker to the present, and the buildup of vampires in different parts of the entertainment industry, including novels, films, tabletop RPG and even computer games; it will note an apparent shift in focus from scariness to sexiness, and touch upon the Freudian notion of Eros and Thanatos, but then also bring forth the fact that this is more of a post-expurgation rediscovery of the very sexual, sensual nature of Stoker’s vampires, one in which some young people are revelling, and one possibly fueled not only by Anne Rice but also by a rejection of other “mainstream” roles in Western culture; the supermodel, homeboy, and besuited professional are held up as comparative models of highly artificial roleplay that is affirmed and embraced by society, and I go on to suggest the Vampire as a role-play responds to these high controlled, highly artificial modes of self-presentation.

If you want to download the powerpoints, you need to be logged in. They’re my first efforts, so criticism is welcome, but I won’t be reworking them until next time I have a Public Speaking class. I’m pretty happy with the one I think is good; the one I think is bad, isn’t quite bad enough, but does at least illustrate some problems like what I saw in many student PowerPoints during the last Presentation Contest held on campus.

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