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Re: Stuff Happens Critique

First let me say that I am sure that all your criticisms are valid and are made from the point of view of a presentation professional. I am not one. I am an old fashioned lecturer. I never write a script and, rightly or wrongly, rely on oral spontaneity to try to retain the interest of the audience. I use slides as an aide-mémoire to remind me of the points I wish to make. If the audience is concentrating on the slides rather than listening to the speaker, in my view the battle is half lost. This “presentation” is just the result of an undertaking to the audience at two lectures to make the slides available after the event. It was merely by last-minute accident that I discovered that the slides could be saved as a web presentation. The notes were added when I realised that the slides could not stand alone.
I am horrified at the idea of using a template, as I was when PowerPoint first invaded European conferences from the other side of the pond. Suddenly presentations all followed a formula. We were given the outline at the outset, so there were no enlivening surprises. There was a hypnotic uniformity – the content merged into the style. It was bland and unmemorable, washing over you like a soap commercial. If you need music to retain the attention of your audience, better shut up. If the mind wanders, don’t blame the screen, blame the speaker. If PowerPoint needs a little love, it should go elsewhere. It is just a convenient way of getting words and images on a screen. There are two extremes of communication, oratory and PowerPoint. Some of us dinosaurs attempt to inhabit the middle ground, but have heart, we will be extinct soon.
Finally, I have just broken one of my rules of life – never explain, never apologise – but I frequently do. My love of the spoken and written word overpowers my prudence.
If you think that reference to excrement has punch, you are deluded.
Nevertheless, I appreciate your contributions.

Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

Most of what you say was in the back of my mind as I wrote my suggestions.

I am constantly hounded by my boss when "funky fonts" show up on one of our pages. Anyone who has messed with style sheets can tell you the woes that go along with them. Every time he yells "Funky Fonts," I am inclined to strangle him (figuratively). Personally I dont' worry much about them anymore looking at web pages. The most important part of a page is whether I can read it.

That said. I use to have arguments with my room mate in college on Style vs Content. I hate to say this now, but I was always arguing style. Content is of course important. The problem is, if you can't get people to read your content, then you are SOL.

We are in a desperate situation right now. We daren't lie ever, but that doesn't mean we can't flex our style muscles to maximize the impact our statements have. You, I and most of our audience don't need to be manipulated. It is the 10% of the audience that doesn't fully understand what you are saying that we have to attack with structure.

I never got lost within the Presentation, but I have read every word you have written since starting this website. It ("Sorry...") is sitting on the nightstand along with several Heinlein books, Harry Potter and Junk Science Judo.

The people who need to undestand your presentation haven't read your books.

Power Point, like any computer application, or any lab apparatus is nothing more than a tool. Using it well will help maximize your impact. It will not make you one of the idiots who use it(and their excel generated ZOOMED charts) to lie to their audience.

Using music to augment pictures is just a psychological example. I was dumbfounded when I discovered this. We make videos for a big drink manufacturer (for conferences). When I saw the first one we did, my skin ********* It seemed that we had picked the absolute perfect piece of music to go along with the video. I realized later that it almost doesn't matter what music you pick as long as you stimulate more than one sense at a time.

I wasn't suggesting that you put music to your presentation. The music in your case is your voice.

You don't need to engross the viewer with amazing Power point exercises. The most you are trying to do is make the people listening to you Puff on their Pipe.

Here is an example (if it makes you login, guest/guest should work, then try the link again, if that doesn't work go to the storeroom and click on "save the world" then go to the training area and click on it again).

Green and blue may not be the best color combination in the world, but it seems to work pretty well. All it is, is one of the templates from PowerPoint with my crazy ideas entered. My boss made me remove my "don't by organics" section. I didn't put in the "Don't Recycle" section either.

As far as excrement goes, well... I continue to read your words because of your ability to avoid such profanity. That is not entirely true. I come back to this site repeatedly because you make sense. As far as the seven vulgar words go (or however many their might be), our avoidance of them is really quite wacky. Excessive use of a word makes you sound like an idiot. Using any word where it fits can be useful. You do have to take your audience into consideration. If you were presenting to a high school here in the states, "**** Happens" would quite effective. Presenting to the Queen, well I might find something even less offensive that "Stuff".

Lecturing is a form entertainment. Power point is a tool that can augment the entertainment value. You can fall into the power point trap or you can use it to your advantage. You are the driver, you are the master, you are in control.

I don't expect to justify why you did stuff, but I like sharing my opinions with people in this forum.

If you give a presentation that says you can use an Excel Spreadsheet to predict the temperature on Whidby Island 100 years from now, I will stop reading your site. You will at that point have gone off the deep end. That would be much worse than you starting to preach about God's great works as if you had spoke to him yesterday.

Sadly, you would probably be more accurate with an Excel spreadsheet predicting weather 100 years from now than the climate models are now at predicting it 2 weeks ahead.

If I showed any disrespect in the first message, it wasn't meant to be there.

Re: Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

Replying to your own reply is probably gauche, but...

Somehow I overlooked Statistical in the title. It is always embarrassing when this happens. You'd think I would learn. Sadly. I can only say "oops."

On the sense stimulation aspect, getting the audience to actually touch the subject would be wonderful. If you could mix in smell and taste in addition. Man, they would remember your words.


Re: Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

PP can be useful for Sales Training activities. Once.

In my time I have had the misfortune to sit through that presentation (occasional minor changes) a few times since 'we are all salespersons' came into vogue.

I think there is one presentation with millions of variants.

JEB's Stuff Happens slides are fine stand alone if one is already in tune with the subject matter. I suspect they would work well as background for a fronted presentation, using a lecture style, for those in the audience whose attention may be variable - depending on when they last ate and so on.

But in the main I prefer to avoid PP, or at least it's commonly used styles and methods, if possible.

As for profanities - Tony Buzan, and others, suggest thet vulgarities can leave lasting memories and link ideas and are thus an aid to learning in some ways when used carefully. I suspect they have a point.

Music. I have recently noticed that many TV programs - I watch very few (almost none) but often hear the general cacophany of those programs the family watches - have drifted into load and intrusive 'dramatic' music rather than dialogue or subtlety of sound.

This evening ITV1 ran a program about Hurricanes - spouting all the usual nonsense of course during the few minutes I could bear to watch. It was most noticable for the sound level of dramatic chords which masked the words of the presenter and was presumably intended to heighten the drama as if the audience had been watching a Hollywood produced disaster movie.

What is this all about? A weak message based on bad science reinforced by emotionally charged musically based sound snaps. Are these not the methods of arch dictators and their propaganda merchants?

Or am I readying too much into it all and we are simply hearing the results of the sound engineeers playing with the new audio tools available to them with the advent of the broad acceptance and implementation surround sound technology?


Re: Re: Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

I remember reading in "The Agony and the Ecstacy" about Michelangelo causing massive failures because his art was so "realistic". Other artists attempted to simulate this realism only to mess it up. The author argued that Michelangelo's study of the body through a key to the morgue allowed him to draw the bodies much more accurately than those who had never seen the muscles under our skin.

Power point shows can be wonderful things. A few zips and you can make a really impressive show that wows a client and gets them to sign a check. A person watching the show says "Wow, I could do that" and proceeds to create his own. More is always better. Suddenly you have the most obnoxious show on the planet, and the show apparently everyone has seen. The tool (power point) wasn't the problem. It was the idiot creating the show.

I got to move some logs down a hill this weekend. We couldn't get a truck up there so we cut the pieces to the lengths I wanted and we hauled them down the hill. The first one we dragged. Not a great experience. We go my hand cart and tied it to one end of the logs and pickep up the other. It worked, but was still a lot of effort. We went back to the garage to see if we could rig something better. We converted a two wheeled wheel barrow into a log hauler. We balanced the log onto the cart and then walked it down the hill. It required a little effort, but not much. I suppose I could have come up with some other method of hauling the logs. I could have used different tools. The tool did what I needed it to do. It got the logs down the hill with little damage to the logs or the slowly eroding road.

Use the tools you have, but try and use them as effectively as you can.

Re: Stuff Happens Critique

You might like to look at:

Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

I have a hammer at home. I use it to do a variety of tasks. I pound nails into wood, pry nails from wood, unbend nails, pry boards apart, break glass, and a variety of other tasks. It has unwittingly done a variety of other things, including making my finger black and blue, and creating a heat sink an innappropriate times. Use it well and it does amazing things, use it carelessly and you get out what you put in.

Anyone saying that PP causes bad analysis is ignoring the underlying problem, engineers performing poor anyalysis. You can blaim Excel for the mass of moronic charts currently in the media or you can recognize that the education of the individuals using excel is bereft.

I like to play golf. I have watched more than a few "gadgets" come on the market: Chippers, oversized putters, offset irons, among many others. Each can do the job it is designed to do, but invariably the golfers start having the same difficulty with the "gadget" club that they had before. It is not the tool that is at fault but the user of that tool who fails to understand how it should be used.

Why on gods green earth I am defending a Microsoft Product, I don't know.

Power Point is a tool. It is a tool that is used very badly, very often. That doesn't mean that if you rid yourself of Power Point that suddenly people will start doing good analysis.

May the gods of Open Source strike me dead for defending this miserable product.

Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

I can't consider myself a great engineer. When I read articles like these, I wonder if I wouldn't start carrying around a big fat Throttleman control stick.

Time for another analogy.

There is a casualty in Naval Nuclear Propulsion called the Steam Overdemand. It is possible on a Naval ship to cause nasty things (like the reactor shutting down) to happen by sneaking up on boundaries. If a throttleman very slowly continues to open the steam line feeding the turbines that drive the ship, it is possible to cause either a Partial Fast Insertion or a Scram of the reactor. The solution to this potential source of PIA is to utilize the Throttleman Calibration Stick, otherwise known as the side of your hand, a ruler or any other stick that can reach the throttleman to chastise him for not paying attention to his duty.

We need a lot more sticks in Engineering Disciplines.

Anytime you use Chartsmanship, WHACK!
Anytime you draw pretty pictures to prove you point, WHACK!
Anytime you use PP to perform analysis, WHACK!

I often try and teach using tools like PP, Excel, and Word to do things other than what was initially intended, but that is to make the point that all of them are just tools that can be bent to your will. It is your job as the user to get the tool to do the proper job. You use Excel as a word processor, but it isn't idea. You can use word as a calculator, but it is silly to do so. Understanding what different tools can do lets you accomplish tasks that you wouldn't otherwise have thought possible. It is absolutely vital though that the person using the tool be cognizant of what he is doing. If he is not, it doesn't matter what tool he uses, he will FUBAR it.

I apologize for using profanity again.

Re: Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

Hopefully having conversations with yourself isn't an indication of the onset of insanity.

I retract my negative endorsement of power point as an analysis tool.

I realized this morning that PP has a simple drawing package tied to it that allows the simple creation of FREE BODY DIAGRAMS.

Oddly, you could do the same in Word, Excel, AutoCad, MiniCad, MacDraft, FreeHand, Photoshop, Illustrator, Alibre, SketchUP (Now free from google), and probably a thousand other apps.

Of course you could also use an Engineering Pad, then scan in the resultant drawing to send to your coworkers on the other side of the world.

There are an infinite number of paths to any destination. There are two types of wrong paths -- one that doesn't get you to the destination and one that does get you there but only because you managed to step over the gaping chasm in the road that you didn't see.

The greatest guide we have to avoiding those chasms is the experience of those who have gone before us.


p.s. I really do feel sane. I swear.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Stuff Happens Critique

Brad, I would like to point out that there are two types of correct paths to any destination: An elegant method, and a brute force method. Certainly a canned drawing program can give you an elegant method of getting to the destination of presenting information. But, it can be just as valid to place a blank sheet of overhead projector film onto the overhead projector, and sketch out a diagram freehand in black ink.

If, indeed, the medium is the message, it can be much more effective to use such a brute force method. Instead of the audience being taught something, and passively sitting and absorbing, the crude sketch can be a powerful tool that grabs the attention by focusing on what is most important in the data. Now a true discussion can arise, based upon that data, rather than the data being overwhelmed by the accoutrements of the presentation.

A truly skillful presentation, with beautiful graphics and music and colors, can quickly mask bad data and interpretation, especially when the audience is uneducated. A simple presentation must have good data, good interpretation, and good mastery of the subject matter.

You are sane. I swear.