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Using PowerPoint

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In the past few months, have you found your mind wandering during a presentation or lecture? Was the speaker using PowerPoint? And, if they were, did the following happen?

  1. They turned to face the screen, and read the contents of the slide verbatim.
  2. They included huge chunks of text on the screen, more than you could read or understand.
  3. They dimmed the lights so you could catch your much-needed sleep.

Ineffective use of PowerPoint is becoming more and more common. By far the most common complaint is that the presenter reads all of the information on the screen to the audience. The audience tends to think, 'I can read it myself, why do I need someone to read it to me?' You can easily lose your audience if they find you dispensable.

PowerPoint can be a wonderful presentation tool. You can use it to display your main points, and it can save you time so you don't have to write things on the board. Also, your notes can be easily distributed via electronic or paper means to your students.

Prepare for a PowerPoint presentation as much as you would any other type of presentation. Make sure you know your content, that the slides are in the order and shape that you want, and practice going through them, timing how long it takes for the whole presentation. Feel free to use tricks like pressing the 'B' key during a presentation to make the screen black, and use discussion techniques within the presentation to keep the class's attention.

Effective PowerPoint presentations act as companions to the presenter, not the other way around. They emphasize the points of the presentation, leaving room for the presenter to elaborate and illustrate, the way only visuals can, the points the presenter is making.

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