Giving presentations

by Dr Richard Freeman

Last week, we had our Doctoral School Summer Conference where we had presentations from 60 of our doctoral students on their research. Most students used PowerPoint, but some have started using an alternative: Prezi (www.prezi.com).

By coincidence, on the same day I read an LSE blog by Ned Potter that looked at the advantages and disadvantages of using Prezi as well as linking to a good presentation on “Death by PowerPoint (and how to avoid it)”. The presentations at our conference were just 15 minutes long and I was very pleased so discover that none of them suffered from “Death by PowerPoint”! However, it did get me thinking about my own presentations. I’ve been wary of using Prezi mainly for issues of accessibility, e.g. for people who are visually impaired or blind.

It is good to look at alternatives to one’s usual way of doing things and reflect on whether you can use the alternatives to  improve what you do. For example, for my last presentation at an international conference I used PowerPoint. But, I tried to make most slides consist of a photograph with a sentence or two of text to try to bring the topic to life. For that talk I was looking at divided communities in Ireland and I was able to use some photographs that I had taken myself of different communities in Derry/Londonderry. In that case I felt it went very well, but I expect to take a different approach for my next conference presentation where I will be presenting data in the form of tables and figures.

For your own presentations I’d encourage you to consider what you’re trying to communicate and how that can be best achieved: PowerPoint, Prezi or no visual aides at all.

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