Vol 1, # 2, February 2013 More Tips & Tricks for Auxiliary Instructors COMO Tom Venezio, DVC-‐ED In our first issue of WayPoints, Commodore Dan Maxim shared some great tips for improving our instructional skills. We’re pleased to have COMO Maxim share some additional thoughts in this month’s issue. Please look forward to additional ideas focused on continuous improvement of our instructional delivery methods and skills. Above all, please share with me any ideas that you would like to see included in future issues (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Power of PowerPoint! Commodore L. Daniel Maxim, ANACO-‐RB The first issue of WAYPOINTS presented a series of tips for effective instruction culled from experience and observation of great and not-‐so-‐great instructors. This second issue presents some material on the proper use and construction of PowerPoint presentations. Subsequent issues of WAYPOINTS will address such topics as similarities and differences between adults and children as learners, reading body language, and handling ‘problem students.’ Though some might argue otherwise,1 PowerPoint is a highly effective presentation medium if used correctly. However, the presentations need to be correctly designed and presented, otherwise “death by PowerPoint” results. The Directorate of Education will provide PowerPoint presentations that conform to accepted design principles as part of the instructor package. However, you may wish to add slides to 1 See e.g., http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2008/0803/0803vie2.cfm or http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_pp.
address topics of particular relevance to your District or Sectors and the tips in this article are designed to help you. And you may wish to create your own presentations for district/division/flotilla meetings. As in the first issue of WAYPOINTS numerous web links are included for those who wish to follow up on particular points. These links were accessed on 14 January 2013. • Let’s start with a point made in the first issue of WAYPOINTS that bears repetition: do not read directly from the slides except for emphasis. Students can read faster than you can speak and you lose synchronization and ultimately their attention. Choose only selected points on each slide for discussion if these are difficult, particularly noteworthy, or you intend to offer additional supporting information. • Practice your PowerPoint presentation. One useful source of tips offers the following advice: 2 “Most speakers who create their presentations in PowerPoint simply preview it on-screen to verify the format and content is correct. For maximum impact, speakers should preview and practice their presentations in screen-show mode with the projector attached. Test the timing, evaluate the effects, and verify that the videos function correctly. If you’re presenting on-stage at a conference, make a point to tell the conference planners that you want to present using your own computer. That way, there won’t be any incompatibility issues with fonts, missing files, or other unanticipated glitches. Practicing with your presentation will prepare you for how the presentation will look and sound, and give you a level of familiarity. They say that ‘practice makes perfect.’ But amended, it should read “PERFECT practice makes perfect.” [Emphasis added.] • Rehearsals are particularly important if you are doing team teaching and intend to use the same PowerPoint presentation. Make sure the transitions from one presenter to another are seamless and properly introduced as in “Now that we have covered this topic, my colleague Mr./Ms./Dr. ______ will address ____________.” • Make sure the PowerPoint presentation is error free (typos are particularly irritating) and conforms to general PowerPoint design rules (e.g., large print, relatively few lines per slide, a clear theme, etc.).3 Where possible include video or audio clips to enhance interest, but don’t use clips more than about 5 2 See http://www.presentationteam.com/presentation-tips/powerpoint-tips/10-tips-to-preventing- powerpoint-presentation-pitfalls. 3 See e.g., http://www.virtualsalt.com/powerpoint.htm, http://www.cob.sjsu.edu/splane_m/presentationtips.htm, http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006- 06-01/how-to-powerpoint-like-a-pro, http://www.techrepublic.com/article/10-things-you-should- know-about-powerpoint-abuse/5875608, http://presentationsoft.about.com/od/presentationmistakes/tp/080722_presentation_mistakes.htm, http://www.d.umn.edu/~jgallian/goodPPtalk.pdf, and http://www.helium.com/items/459862-how-to- avoid-the-pitfalls-of-powerpoint-presentations. Here are two another suggestions; http://www.duarte.com/books/ and www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/talks/metatalk/.
minutes long (shorter is better; most television commercials are less than 1 minute long and some are as short as 5 or 10 seconds4). Adding humor is helpful, but it should be keyed to the subject matter. • One professional offers the following advice on clip art: 5 “Avoid using PowerPoint Clip Art or other cartoonish line art. Again, if it is included in the software, your audience has seen it a million times before. It may have been interesting in 1993, but today the inclusion of such clip art often undermines the professionalism of the presenter. There are exceptions, of course, and not all PowerPoint art is dreadful, but use it carefully and judiciously.” • Another professional offers several useful PowerPoint tips, including:6 “A common mistake is the overuse of PowerPoint animations and transitions during a slideshow. Im sure youve seen what Im talking about; the presenter that animates each sentence so it flies in, drops down, and explodes on the screen with an accompanying sound effect. What happens after that? Do you lose track of what the presenter is saying or forget within three seconds what the point was because you were so focused on the effects that you missed the content?” • Don’t apologize for content, as in “I know you can’t read this, but…” This invites an audience opinion described by one author7 as: “Well, if you know we cant read it, why are you showing it to us? This is, hands down, the number one biggest mistake that a speaker can make.” If it is important that your audience read some material, then give it to them as a hand out and place the cover of the document on the slide. • Keep the lights on:8 “If you are speaking in a meeting room or a classroom, the temptation is to turn the lights off so that the slides ‘look better’. But go for a compromise between a bright screen image and ambient room lighting. Turning the lights off — besides inducing sleep — puts all the focus on the screen. The audience should be looking at you more than the screen. Today’s projectors are bright enough to allow you to keep many of the lights on.” • Ensure that videos or audio files that you intend to use are imbedded in the PowerPoint presentation. Do not create “dead time” (and lose student attention) by having to insert DVDs or tapes into players (except as a backup). If for whatever reason it is impossible for you to do this, have a colleague cue up the devices so that the dead time is minimized. 4 See http://www.tvb.ca/pages/commercial+lengths_htm. 5 See http://www.garrreynolds.com/presentation/slides.html. 6 See http://sbinfocanada.about.com/cs/management/qt/powerptpres.htm. 7 See http://net.educause.edu/content.asp?page_id=2501&bhcp=1. 8 See http://www.garrreynolds.com/Presentation/delivery.html.
• Work on the timing of the PowerPoint presentation—perhaps 2-3 minutes per slide on average is a good planning figure unless the slides are highly detailed. Make sure that you leave adequate time for questions and answers at the end. This is yet another reason to rehearse your presentation and get the timing right. • Slides with a lot of detail are difficult to read. Better to have the slide cover a few main points and hand out more detailed information. For example, if you wish to cover a report or article, put the report cover on a PowerPoint slide with a few bullet points and hand out or give electronic copies of the report to the students. • Under the rubric of ‘pre-empt the questions’ one authority suggests:9 “Think before about what people might ask. I often decide to leave material out but have a slide there to answer it in Q&A if someone raises it. A good tip here is to print out your deck in handout mode for yourself with the slide numbers. Then if you type ‘13’ and hit enter, PowerPoint will display slide 13 without you having to press escape, find the slide, and then restart the presentation. It also looks very slick.” This trick will only work if you can easily return to where you are in the presentation, which means that you need to keep track of the slide number that you are using. • Put up a slide only a moment before you want to refer to it. Give the audience time to read it or for you highlight it for them. Remove the slide when you want the audience to attend fully to you again.10 Many remotes contain a switch that makes the screen go black, which is convenient. Unless you are using a laser pointer to direct the student’s attention to the projected slide, don’t face the screen, face the audience. And, while we are on that topic, “use a laser pointer to point, and thats it. Your listeners eyes will be drawn to where ever you point, so make sure youre not circling items on the screen with the pointer, make sure youre not keeping the pointer lit as it moves off the screen, and make sure youre not turning your back to the audience as you use it—stay engaged.”11 • One source offers good advice regarding handling technical glitches:12 “If the unfortunate computer crash happens with the audience watching, and you can’t tackle it yourself, it’s helpful to have an expert on hand to help with the tech issues. There’s no harm in asking for help from the audience. Some may 9 See http://blogs.msdn.com/b/officerocker/archive/2006/07/21/presenting.aspx. 10 For this and other tips, refer to http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/talk.html. You don’t actually have to remove the slide with PowerPoint. There should be a button on the remote control that enables you to do present a black screen. 11 Suggested by http://lab.hirschey.org/resources/advice_blog/files/great_talk.html. Many instructors recommend that laser pointers not be used. 12 See http://www.presentationteam.com/presentation-tips/powerpoint-tips/10-tips-to-preventing- powerpoint-presentation-pitfalls.
even have laptop computers on hand and could step in quickly to offer assistance, or soften the impact of your center-stage technical tragedies. As a secondary plan, always carry the presentation and its related graphics and fonts on a backup USB memory stick, to be able to quickly transfer it to another computer.” Incidentally, this is another way to utilize fellow members to help with education or member training classes that does not require them to be a master instructor. Having technical smarts is a valuable skill. • Unless it is essential, dont rely on a network connection to display web pages. Slow connection speeds and temporary outages happen all the time, and there is no reason for them to impede your presentation. If necessary, make images of the web display and paste it into your presentation. • As noted in the first issue: Consider using props as well as PowerPoint. Models of boats, buoys, charts, lifejackets, etc. can add interest to your talk13 and variety to the presentation media. • Opinion is divided on whether it is a good idea to hand out copies of your slides beforehand. It is handy for members of the audience to be able to annotate the slides and add their personal notes. But, many will simply read through the handouts and literally not be on the same page with you. Moreover, if you have some “surprise” slides, the effect may be lost on those who read ahead. One practical idea is to say that you will hand out copies at the end for those who want to follow up on key points. • One reference (Atlinson, C., Beyond Bullet Points, Microsoft) suggests using a projection technique where you project the slide on the screen and retain the corresponding notes section on your laptop. This way you can read or talk to the points raised in your notes section, while presenting the display slide on the screen. A difficulty with this technique is that it forces you to stay in front of your audience where you can read from your computer and, in any event, the font size may not be adequate for you to read. Best advice; make sure that you rehearse your presentation sufficiently not to need to refer to the notes section and retain the flexibility to move around. • Remember that you are the instructor, not a mere projectionist. You are the one giving the presentation. Don’t allow the presentation to become the center of attention. 13 See http://www.cs.duke.edu/brd/Teaching/Giving-a-talk/giving-a-talk.html.
• Let me leave you with one last point suggested by another expert:14 “As with everything else, there are times when each of these rules – or any other rule you know – won’t apply. If you know there’s a good reason to break a rule, go ahead and do it. Rule breaking is perfectly acceptable behavior – it’s ignoring the rules or breaking them because you just don’t know any better that leads to shoddy boring presentations that lead to boredom, depression, psychopathic breaks, and eventually death. And you don’t want that, do you?”L. Daniel Maxim, ANACO-‐RB 14 See http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/10-tips-for-more-effective-powerpoint- presentations.html.