Don’t try to be clever

Here is a quote from Napoleon that pretty much sums up the danger of being too clever.

We see that a lot in bad PowerPoint presentations. The presenter clutters up his slides with all those animations and cheesy clip arts on top of the 10 bullet points.

All these special effects do nothing but make the audience dizzy. They distract the audience from the message. The audience sit there wondering how the next batch of bullet points are going to appear. Are they going to fly in from the left? Or from the right? Or are they just going to dissolve first and then explode? Which bells are going to ring and which whistle will be blown? It is all utter nonsense.

Listen to Napoleon! Keep it simple and don’t try to be clever.

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2 responses to “Don’t try to be clever

  1. Simple..it is just common sense… but if it is that common why do we still make the same errors? Last night I watched to programmes on BBC that covered statistics and diagrams… so here are two nuggets, black or gold? one was that Florence Nightingale knew that although she had discovered the way to radically reduce deaths in front line hospitals.. but knew she had to present data in a way that grabbed the attention of politicians [Ha!]
    Upto this time, 1858, statistics were presented like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/97039613@N00/5261150860/
    and she knew how boring and devoid of narrative this is so she devised the rose diagram:

    The second programme was presented by Hans Rosling and included what he presented at TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html
    Very entertaining and I learned that there are upto 100,000 pieces of data behind the animation…. but is he demonstrating clever or getting us to change our field hospitals “so to speak”? I believe I could rush out of Nightingales presentation and sketch a good copy of her diagram and tell her story… how do I tell Roslin’s story ..” I saw this cerebelatery and he had a load of balls and they all bounced round the screen .. and thay told us … er something! It was great!”
    Who changed the world most? too early to tell but I would bet on 1858.

    • Jim,

      I like Han Rosling’s delivery (very entertaining and humorous) and also his time lapsed graphics. But I think he is presenting too much data all at once. Most people can’t process a three or four dimensional set of numbers that quickly. Nightingale got it right. Her rose diagrams gave the audience an instant impression of her message. And that’s what presentation is all about, isn’t it?

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