There Isn’t Any Power If It Doesn’t Have a Point


Presentation software is one of my favorite teaching tools. Programs such as PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi help teachers to emphasize important points and use visuals in their lessons. Their use is an art well worth mastering. Find some software (LibreOffice is one free option) and follow these steps to use this tool in your classroom.

Step 1: Go to the library and get one of those “For Dummies” books.

This blog post is not about the mechanics of using presentation software. That’s what The Complete Idiot’s Guide to PowerPoint is for. Set aside an afternoon or so to learn the basics and play around with the software. In no time you’ll be making something like this:

(For the best viewing experience, download the presentation and view it in PowerPoint.)

Step 2: Forget most of what you learned in Step 1.

All that color and movement and noise sure was neat, huh? In fact, it was probably so neat that you barely noticed anything about Ulrich Zwingli. So even though you have the ability to make presentations like that, don’t. The flashing and buzzing will commandeer interest at the expense of the content that you want to communicate. Efforts to attract attention too easily distract attention.

Step 3: Focus attention.

Presentations should focus the audience’s attention on each piece of information. Use the items like a photographer uses a telephoto lens, not a wide-angle lens. Rather than cramming as much as you can onto every slide, devote each slide to a single idea, and remove everything that might distract from that idea. Employ color, sound, and movement judiciously, and only in ways that emphasize the idea rather than overpower it. Like salt and pepper, the special effects are seasonings, not main ingredients.

Now view the following presentation, and see if you learn more about Ulrich Zwingli than you did from the presentation above.

(For the best viewing experience, download the presentation and view it in PowerPoint.)

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Matthew Mast

7 years ago

I had to download the “bad” PowerPoint to hear the audio, and yes, it is a BAD PowerPoint. The goal of using a presentation is not to entertain, but to enhance communication and aid the audience (students) in understanding. The flash and sizzle is fun to do, but it seldom, if ever, aids in learning. Thanks for raising this important issue, Peter!


7 years ago

This is so true. Keep presentations simple.

Peter Goertzen

7 years ago

For what it’s worth, several of the fabulous/horrible things in the first presentation (like Zwingli saying “Yee-haw!”) are missing from the version embedded in this blog post. Go ahead and download it for the full experience (or at least a better chance at it). Incidentally, this is another reason to keep your presentations simple. The simpler your presentation, the fewer opportunities there are for technical hiccups.

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