Murphy’s Law

footprints in the sand

One of my brilliant slides - all in vain because the remote didn't work properly.

Murphy’s Law states: “If something can go wrong it will”, and it applies in most human endeavours, especially presentations.

Now I’ve been around for a while, given hundreds of presentations if not more, and am pretty proud of my skills and logisitics. Nevertheless, I was presenting on Creativity the other night, with a brilliantly designed and assembled minimalist but striking slide deck that enraptured the audience.

The venue was well known to me for its professionalism, technology and ambience – I have presented there scores of times wihout any hitches. This time was different, My presentation, as most, relies on blanking out slides as required. Unfortunately, the presentation remote control didn’t have this function. Why not? It’s basic.

By the time I discovered this, I was well into the presentation, couldn’t walk over to their laptop to hit the “B” key because it was 6 metres away in the corner of the room. I didn’t have my own remote with me because I didn’t think I’d need it. Bad move. Tie string around finger.

My otherwise briliiant presentation lost some of its intended shine. Lesson learned.

Who makes a @#$% remote without a blanking function? Up yours Murphy!

From the web

Other formulations/corollaries of Murphy’s law were described. The most memorable one was the mathematical formulation. It was pictured in the text as 1 + 1 -> 2, where the -> was a hand with the index finger pointing to the right. The text defined -> as “hardly every equals”.

Using PowerPoint – Introduction

This guy is so underwhelmed, he's reading his emails!

This guy is so underwhelmed, he's reading his emails!

PowerPoint, Keynote, Impress and other programs are just presentation tools – methods of producing slides for projection, nothing more, and you need to keep that in perspective. Just as the carpenter’s tools are not the house, PowerPoint is not the presentation. Too many presenters overuse the gimcrackery that comes with powerpoint to the detriment of their message. It’s like wanting to use every feature of your mobile telephone to make a call. It’s just not appropriate.

How many slides should be in your deck? Only enough to get the message across.

Overuse of powerpoint, especially to display text, suggests a lack of preparation by the presenter and insults the audience. You’ll know you’re well prepared if you wouldn’t panic over a power failure. If you’re reliant on the powerpoint, you haven’t done enough preparation. The unofficial mantra of the US Marine Corps  is

improvise, overcome, adapt

and as a presenter your preparation should be rigorous enough to do this. Be prepared to draw your slides on a whiteboard if necessary. The powerpoint slide should only enhance the presentation, not be the presentation.

You are the presentation.

General Principles of Using Powerpoint

  • Construct your presentation on paper before you even think of using PowerPoint. This is the most important rule.
  • Only use a powerpoint slide to illustrate a point, not to act as a prompt.
  • More pictures fewer words
  • No less than 30 point font (thanks Guy Kawasaki)
  • Never, ever, ever read the screen
  • Don’t reveal items one by one; the audience may feel as if they’re being manipulated.
  • Don’t use cheesy animations, graphics or sounds that come with the program. In fact steer away from animations altogether unless you’re showing a video. Most animations are crass. Most people can live without the typewriter sound.
  • Use quality graphics, not clip art
  • Don’t use powerpoint templates that come with the program.
  • Don’t hand out printouts of your slides. If you’ve followed the principles above they won’t be of much help. Prepare a detailed written handout if necessary.

This is only a start!