A good friend who knows I'm working on a presentation for the SBL conference in November sent me this link today:
Stop your presentation before it kills again!
This was a timely thing for him to send to me. I don't have the paper written yet (yes, I've started, but I've a ways to go) but I'm already thinking about how to present it. I do know one thing: I'm not going to simply read it. Ever since Mark Goodacre's post about going extempore at SBL, I knew that if I ever presented a paper there, I wouldn't be reading it word-for-word.
I also know I'll have to have PowerPoint slides or something like that. Screen captures, at a minimum, will be involved and the best way to ensure I'll be able to display them is to have a PowerPoint edition of them in the order I want. But I'm of the camp that thinks PowerPoint is a tool that dooms presentations to mediocrity. Ever since attending an Edward Tufte seminar (almost one year ago) with the rest of the development staff from Logos, I've been convinced that PowerPoint, while not inherently evil, allows people (and even directs people) to use some pretty questionable presentation methods. Here are some links to familiarize yourself with Tufte's perspective in case you're unfamiliar:
Now, if that's not enough to scare anyone from using PowerPoint to make a presentation, I don't know what is. To paraphrase a television commerical that aired in the states when I was a young lad: "When Tufte speaks, people listen".*
But I think I'm stuck with PowerPoint because I need to show screen captures as part of the presentation; they provide the visual context so folks will know what I'm babbling on about.
I'll be pondering this more as November approaches. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to pass them along.
Update (2005-06-13): Bradley provides the link to the Gettysburg Address Powerpoint Slides. You've got to see it to believe it.
Update II (2005-06-14): Mark Goodacre links and provides some further thoughts on the utility of Powerpoint. I agree with Mark; PowerPoint's tendency to guide users through auto-magic creation of mediocre presentations isn't reason to avoid the software. Instead, this is the rationale one needs to ensure that PowerPoint usage isn't unthinking or herd-like. If everyone else uses PowerPoint to project bullet points that they then read aloud for their presentation, this doesn't necessarily reflect proper usage of the software. Whatever is projected is secondary and complimentary; not primary. PowerPoint has a tendency to make the fluff primary. This is the aspect that must be guarded against when considering PowerPoint as a tool to assist with a presentation. Of course ... y'all will get to grade me on this come November. Hopefully I'll pass.
* If I remember correctly, the company was E.F. Hutton.