Styles and Strategies:
How to Interact with Students & Other Audiences
by Sara W. Tucker
It All Depends...While not perfect, PowerPoint can be a very powerful, efficient way for instructors and other presenters to create (and duplicate, and amend, and make available for review) presentations containing lots of different multi-media resources. But, as with any kind of teaching technique, we also need to think about just where students and other audiences fit into PowerPoint presentations. And of course, that all depends - on what kind and level of group being addressed, kind of material, kind of presentation strategy, etc.Dozing In The DarkProbably the most common "bad use" of PowerPoint comes when such shows go on forever, with bulleted slide after bulleted slide crammed full of detail, and the presenter drones on and on, reading the content of each crammed slide to his or her audience. The audience then either dozes off in the darkened room, or perhaps works frantically to copy every word from each slide - and thus is too busy to think about any of it.Dancing Bullets
Of course none of us want this to be what happens in our presentations! Yet often we do want PowerPoint shows to contain a lot of important information, and thus may want to use the dread bulleted lists, at least sometimes. Yet we definitely don't want people dozing off, or otherwise not thinking about the content of the presentation we've just worked so hard to construct. So what to do?When bulleted slides make sense, PowerPoint makes it easy for you to control and time just which bullets you want people to see, when. This is most easily done by using the Text Preset Animation function. To do it
- Begin in the Slide Sorter view, with a slide selected that is created in any one of the Slide Layout styles that includes bulleted lists
Slide Layout format choice box, showing one bulleted list format chosen
Slide Sorter view shown, with Slide 3 selected
- Click on the Slide Show button on the top toolbar. In the drop-down box that appears, click on Preset Animation. Another box will appear, in it choose whichever transition form you prefer. These designate the style with which PowerPoint will show just one bullet at at time.More Than Bullets: Strategies for More Active Student/Audience Involvement
- Recommended transition styles: usually it is best to keep it simple, non-intrusive and requiring little computer memory (or your total show may be very slow to load and transfer). Dissolve and Wipe Right work well. (In contrast, Typewriter style will have each bullet appear letter by letter, as though being printed on an old-fashioned teletype machine - and accompanied by a machine-gun-like high-memory sound file.)
- Unfinished Bullets: Use some bulleted slides, but make your last bullet say something like "what else?" Then engage your listeners in discussion.
- Keep the Bullets, But Save Them Until Last: you can use bullets while encouraging more discussion. One way that works is to first display a slide with a thought-engaging graphic, text quote, and/or perhaps a link to a soundfile or even video clip. Use that as a hook to get some discussion going. Then, if you want, move on to the bulleted slide you've prepared, which can serve as a review or summary. Maybe you can challenge the group to see if they can't come up with something that won't be on your list...
- Have the Group Make the List: Instead of just showing an already-made summarizing bullet list, make creating it a group activity. This can be done many ways (most are clearly aimed at classes, but the principle works more generally):
- Make it a take-home assignment; collect and discuss results at beginning of next class
- Break the class/audience up into groups, and have each group draw up their own bulleted list (all groups could be discussing the same topic or each could be assigned a different one)
- Do it as a whole-group discussion, either listing suggestions on the board or (very effective) take the PowerPoint presentation out of "Slide Show" mode, and actually compose the bulleted list then and there, projecting the process as you do it.