TED Conversations

Marcus Mook

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Death by Powerpoint is a serious issue to be dealt with. Why do you think its happening and how do you hope to resolve it?

Looking at presentations on TED.com, it is unlikely to find one that completely puts you off. In real society, however, we often find many situations where we see people falling asleep in presentations. TED is a treasure trove of ideas and we see how good presentations can bring out good ideas. Unfortunately, these brilliant ideas cannot be conveyed to others if they are "killed" in the middle of it.

I see problems which belong to these 3 areas:
1. Speech
2. Slide Design
3. Overall Presentation

1. Presenters are monotonous, speak too softly/loudly and stress poorly.

2. Slides are poorly designed: excessive text/animation, poor and irrelevant usage of visual aids.

3. Instances when you realize that the presenter has not rehearsed, has poor attire or forgot to account for audiences' needs.

Have you experienced such situations or worse? How do you think such problems arise and what ways can they be solved?

Imagine you were guilty of death by Powerpoint, what measures will you take and why do you think they will be successful?

I'd find answers with concrete examples to be more relevant (and perhaps funnier). Do share links for all to see too! Thank you.

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  • Apr 9 2012: It is the presenters responsibility to engage and assess the audience at all times and adjust as necessary. PowerPoint is an accessory used during a presentation, not the focal point of a presentation. The focus should be completely on the presenter and what they are saying. Much like anything, being a good presenter is something that one learns to do with preparation, practice and feedback. PowerPoint should be used to guide the presenter on topics that need to be covered - not contain all content of a topic on a slide. You must learn who your audience is and clearly define the goal of the presentation. When you are designing your presentation you should stick to the 'less is more' philosophy AND use the 'Presenter View' option. Often people don't want to forget to say something so they put it on the slide. It is best to put only the topic talking points on the slide and then put the expanded information in the notes section. In 'Presenter View' the presenter can see the notes and the audience sees just a few points on the slide which they will read quickly and then focus on what the presenter is saying. I agree with the original poster, speech is critical - volume, tone, fluctuation - when used properly will keep your audience engaged. In addition to voice, body language is also very important. We have all had the presenter who has aimlessly paced back and forth, clicked a marker cap or jiggled change in their pocket, or stood completely hidden behind a podium. Look at your audience, speak with confidence, and move with a purpose.
  • Apr 6 2012: How a bout a background check that sorts out the speakers into high and low risk categories depending on how much more or less likely they are in boring (and by extension killing) their audience . Then have a number of life guard types depending on the given group that watch for signs of death during the presentation.
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    Apr 5 2012: Many people improve their own public speaking by having themselves videotaped and then watching the tape to identify how to improve. People do not necessarily recognize their mannerisms until they see themselves.
    If a group of people on a team are poor speakers and would like to improve their effectiveness, they could watch some talks together of people not in their group. Together they could identify what made one talk more effective and another less effective, including both presentation and slides.
    This is such a common problem- public speaking- and has been probably forever. You will find many resources online, I am sure, which will be helpful.