Better Presentations

Cliff Atkinson’s apprpriately named blog on Powerpoint (Beyond Bullets) has a post about an interview with John Seely Brown. Excerpts:

PowerPoint slides are very, very bad, as currently used, to tell good stories, and theyre very bad in terms of laying out a complex argument. Complex arguments are often non-linear. The beauty of the well-structured office memo is that you can start to see different pieces of the argument and how they come together. You may want to go back and review some of the assumptions that went into that line of the argument. Often an argument has 3 or 4 lines that come together its called proof by case in mathematics. Very few interesting mathematical proofs are ever linear arguments.

A story is more than an argument. A story is an argument that understands not only logic denotation but also connation. Stories are interesting vehicles for carrying very complex arguments. The plus of the story is you remember it, but the minus is that it does turn on rhetorical power. I can tell you a story that, because of the emotional side, will overwhelm your ability to really examine the logic. What you ideally want is to understand the logic, understand the data, and understand the stories that can carry the logic and data together.

I could argue that I couldnt make this happen with PowerPoint. You dont make it happen by using the tools PowerPoint uses to structure. The first thing to do is turn off everything I work only with blank slates and none of their wizards I wouldn’t touch any of that stuff.

Youre going to see PowerPoint evolve as people discover the ability to enact sub-genres. It is also the opportunity to make these things much richer in terms of their media, to use a sequence of images with a very small amount of text. I was recently at a board presentation at a company that always used the old PowerPoint slides, or didnt use slides at all. A subgroup experimented with using images that told the story. They had images with very, very simple titles on them, and they had very interesting, well-thought through text that they spoke, and improvised. So suddenly these images were the backdrop that set the context.

When I say my slides are evocative objects, theyre meant to be the background. I will take the same set of background slides and improvise completely different stories around them. But just like you know in normal text, theres an artwork in terms of having the graphics support the text.

A lot of people just throw in random graphics like clipart. Thats part of the idiom that drives people crazy no one has tailored the graphics to help support the argument. Few people understand how to have the text and the graphics really interact right. In the design of a magazine, there should be a tremendous amount of care to have the graphics support a scaffolding that helps support the text.

A strategy to most corporations is something that fits on a 3×5 card. A story never does. A story touches me emotionally; a story I cant forget. A story carries nuances in the particular that help portray what the general is. Strategic positioning inverts almost every one of those. And in fact the most common thing we hear in an organization is that those who worked on the positioning statement see tremendous meaning in those words; but those who receive the corporate positioning statement see only B.S.

If you look now at most magazines, youll find almost no real deep thinking about how to capture an image, how the caption under an image helps the image, and how the caption plus the image helps the text. Its almost like a rote activity. People dont understand how the reader has to construct an understanding for him or herself, from the bits of information on the page, or on the PowerPoint slide.

BW on the Future of Computing

Business Week has a special report:

In the next decade the PC will finally morph from a beige-box bomb to a thing of beauty. The first hint of bigger changes to come emerged with Apple’s nifty iMac, the all-in-one with a swinging flat-panel display on a crane-like extender arm. In the past year, the PC industry has unveiled a plethora of new looks and out-there concept computers that radically depart from the dominant big-paperweight model.

Displays will come untethered from CPUs and will wander all over the house receiving rapid data streams over wireless Wi-Fi connections. Laptops will transform from the rectangular sameness to incorporate new shapes that could resemble a PDA, a portfolio, or even a magazine. Want that PC in hot pink and in the shape of an orb? No problem, the PC factory of the future will personalize a mold for you and fit components to match.

These PCs will be the beneficiaries of a new wave of engineering in every aspect — from newfangled display technology to better takes on battery life to improved storage vaults. Look no further than the dazzling displays now under development. Old-style CRT monitors were deadweights and dead uses of space. Today’s displays are flatter, thinner, and lighter, thanks to LCD technology. But the next generation will be even better. Think plastic displays that you can roll up and put in a tube or tack up on a refrigerator.

How about the old warhorse, the disk drive? It’s poised to undergo a set of technology shifts that, although evolutionary in nature, will have the revolutionary effect of providing massive storage capability exceeding a terabyte in the average home PC within a decade.

That’s enough to handle tens of thousands of high quality MP3s or hundreds of feature-length movies. That compares to 80 to 100 gigabytes that are the standard today, an amount that’s far too small to handle the approaching tidal wave of rich recorded media such as high-definition TV, which sucks up 20 gigabytes of memory in a single hour’s recording.

Add it all up, and you have an industry that’s not unlike a caterpillar that’s about to turn into a vibrant silicon-powered butterfly. In this special report we explore these possibilities and give you an inside look at what the future holds for the personal computer by detailing the innovation path for key areas such as design, displays, storage, and batteries. Advances in all of these categories and more will conspire to make the PC one of the most dynamic players in the electronics segment in the coming decade.