Text boxes — are they the new bullet point?

I have it on good authority that the new thinking in presentation-making is, and I quote, that “Text boxes are the new bullet point”. I get the idea here — let’s stop inflicting ‘death by powerpoint‘ on each other and start making some really good presentations. Ok, I like it.

But liking it and making it happen are two different things, and I’m not sure that such a monumental shift in presentation culture is possible. Fine, I’m a skeptic and a cynic all rolled into one (what do call a room full of skeptics and cynics? A skeptic tank). The bottom line is that people make presentations they way they do for a reason — it’s a culture left over from the days of the overhead projector. And in those days, text was king. This is addressed, among other things, in the presentation below called Presenting with Visuals

I don’t think the world is ready (ok, maybe it’s just me who is not ready, but my ego demands I generalize this statement to all of humankind) for thinking about presentations as a series of text boxes. Besides, I really think rigidly adhering to presentation rules — no matter what the rules might be — has gotten folks into the mess they are in. Rules may not be the answer after all…

Stupid presentation rules

Stupid presentation rules

Perhaps the more generally-applied heuristic is in order here. This is where principles of instructional design can really help. Take Dual-Coding Theory [Paivio] — the idea that text and visuals combined make for stronger learning. Or instructional message design (link to an article), which suggests that using contrast, repetition, and chunking text can help the learner process an instructional message more effectively. These are not new ideas and the Internet is rife with advice related to them [see also 10 tips for more effective presentations or the Presenting with Visuals slideshow above].

While these ideas are not the catchy “THIS is the new THAT” slogan of the dissatisfied presentation-viewing public, they make mucho sense and are easy to apply immediately. “Mucho sense and easy to apply?”, you ask. Yes, I say. Mucho grande. And those elements are a recipe for making shift happen (in reference to presentation culture, of course!).

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Filed under educational technology, Instructional Theory, Presentations, Uncategorized

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