Death by PowerPoint. Guilty? You are not alone!

“Death-by-PowerPoint” – who hasn’t heard of this saying? Yet it still occurs. It occurs because teaching and learning unavoidably involve the presentation of information from teacher to learner and vice versa. If you fall into the death-by-presentation trap, first, acknowledge YOU ARE NOT ALONE; second, know there is a practical reason you are. Read on to see if you agree with this opinion post and find suggestions to help you avoid death-by-presentation in the future.  

In the past, I have indeed fallen into the text crowded slides, I knew I was doing it, BUT I did not have time to find the ideal images, create an extra resource pack for the learners to take with them or a student-friendly notes section. A presentation with the most stimulating visuals but limited text, is often of little use to the learner as a follow-up resource. Would you agree?

After the presentation: a) Visual: engaging but learner can't remember the details. b) boring, text heavy but learner has all the details needed.

This is why we fall into the trap! We are providing the information needed for a fast-approaching assessment and ensuring we provide a resource that learners can refer back to. All the while ensuring we offer cues to the learner to connect what was presented or discussed in the presentation with the follow up reference resource.  

Difference between corporate presentations and an educator’s role

Educators’ time is so valuable yet so limited when it comes to meeting the needs of all learners. A different story if you are a corporate organisation with the time and resources to create shiny well-prepared pitch-style wow presentations and a professionally designed brochure and website to hand out afterwards. Also a different story when the presenter’s only role is to inspire their audience – these audiences will not be assessed on the presented content. The audience may be asked if they enjoyed the presentation but will not be explicitly asked what statistic was presented on slide 10, will they?

This is why educators fall into the death-by-presentation trap – preparing learners for assessment. 

How, as educators, do we fit in the time to align presenting information in engaging ways while still providing resources for the learner to review? Please note, no one here is saying direct presentations are the only way to present information or create learning experiences, absolutely not, but presenting information has an undeniable role to play in online and face-to-face learning experiences. 

What can you do to move away from this trap with limited time to create multiple resources?

Mayer’s Principles of Multimedia 

First up, if you have yet to come across Mayer’s Principles of Multimedia (or even if you have), this is an excellent place to start for tips on avoiding death-by-presentation slides. Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia have been expertly and concisely explained by Andrew DeBell, complete with visuals of “DO THIS” and “NOT THIS”. Check it out! 

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

Second, find a balance. Create your text-heavy presentation, as usual, BUT THEN make a copy of it; skim this copied version back to its bare bones with enhancing images/videos and keywords. Keep your text-heavy version for your reference and, more importantly, to provide to learners afterwards.

Death-by-presentation – in terms of presenting, it just doesn’t work! In terms of providing the information your learners need after your lesson, it works. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! Do what you have been doing but utilise technology to ‘Make a copy’ and efficiently replace text by searching, dragging and dropping visuals (PowerPoint, Google Slides, Canva, Sway and many other tools make this easy).

Final points

Let’s avoid criticising educators who may sometimes fall into the death-by-presentation trap – they are providing learners with the material they need for their assessments. 

Overall, in most cases, keep the presentation short, visual and designed to ignite a desire to delve deeper into the topic (a well-designed slide won’t do this on its own, but it is undoubtedly an excellent place to start). Follow presentations up by guiding the learners to a place they can get the extra information they need. How I do this depends on the time available and how often I will deliver the same content. Sometimes this is as simple as a notes section for each slide or text document. Sometimes it’s a transcripted recording of the presentation. In an ideal world, I have an online interactive space with all the carefully guided supporting information learners will need, including a gamified collaborative knowledge check in preparation for summative assessments. But we have to be realistic with our time!

A text heavy starter presentation to get to grips with the detail required and ready to provide learners as a follow up, quickly redesigned into a skimmed-down visual version, is my timely go-to!

In the next blog post, we will explore what presentation tools I use (and don’t use) to do the above and why! 

Which presentation tool do you currently use and why? 

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