Re: Visa launches verification system in time for Christmas (Nov. 27)

“”Zack Fuerstenberg, director of emerging channels at Visa Canada, said ‘tens of thousands’ of consumers have already

signed up for Verified by Visa.””

When it gets into the billions, call us.

Gerard Rejskind


Re: The politics of PowerPoint (Nov.21)

I agree that too many “”presenters”” rely on PowerPoint. In addition to the fact that many of them really are very poor speakers, far too many insult their audience’s intelligence by turning their back to the audience to read the slides, verbatim. Then again, some slides are so cluttered and poorly designed that even the presenter has difficulty reading the text.

With PowerPoint having become so ubiquitous though, many audience members have come to expect PowerPoint as a de rigueur part of any professional presentation and consider any presentation that doesn’t have it substandard. They’re also the sort who expect the printed handouts of all the slides in a PowerPoint presentation will, of course, be provided.

In my many years of training, consulting and delivering public speaking presentations for industry groups, clients and at conferences, I have often times spoken without PowerPoint or any other visual aid. To be sure, those have been among the most engaging and dynamic sessions. I’ve actually been criticized by a few people who, like children who are accustomed to being plunked down in front of a television to be entertained or distracted, are bewildered by the prospect of having to actually think.

In my early days I did sometimes provide the printed handouts, and we still do provide detailed workshop handout materials and books for each participant. I stopped handing out the printed presentation long ago when I saw my own work regurgitated by people who had attended my seminars. Even now though, some feedback sheets include a few critical remarks from people who want the entire presentation handed to them. The most frequent reason given by these educated, skilled and worldly executives and decision-makers: They don’t want to have to take any notes.

Sharon Polsky
President
Project Scope Solutions Group

Re: The politics of PowerPoint (Nov.21)

Just read your article on the futility of PowerPoint and for the most part I agree. I work for a company (and a director) with a culture and a tendency to present everything in very long, very detailed, very technical PowerPoint presentations. I find the presentations boring (even when I’m writing or presenting them), I know customers find them boring and difficult to follow, and I’m sure that we’re wasting a lot of time putting them together.

I would love to propose a different approach, but the only thing I can come up with is that we just write text (like a speech) and present it that way, with, as you say, one or two slides of charts or diagrams when necessary. But it seems to me that it will be more difficult for customers (not all of whom understand spoken English as well as written English) to follow what’s being said without the “”important bullets”” up on the screen in front of them. What’s the solution?

Peter Abecassis

Re: The politics of PowerPoint (Nov.21)

I have to respond to your editorial on the evils of PowerPoint. I do agree that presentations given with support of PowerPoint slides often contain misleading or just plain wrong information. In fact, one of my favourite cynical terms is “”marketecture””: The art and science of joining boxes with lines and pretending that they will work together, usually used in corporate boardrooms with executives at sufficiently high level to never have to worry about the technical details.

However, blaming the tool is just plain wrong. Good or bad tools do not make you a good or a bad communicator; that is wholly determined by your own skills and abilities. I have seen good presenters use PowerPoint to make their messages more memorable and I have seen poor presenters obfuscate their own messages to the point of unintelligibility.

A technical talk with appropriate visuals is much more powerful than one without visuals, all other things being equal. The argument that says that the bad defaults of the software promote bad communication is misleading. Saying that poor communicators use bad defaults because they don’t know any better would be more accurate. The blame is with the communicators, not with the software. Microsoft has proven that there is a market for ugly colours combined with distracting backgrounds, and as a for-profit firm in a competitive industry they have the mandate to supply what the market wants.

Here is a challenge: I am giving a talk early in the Information Highways conference (http://www.econtentinstitute.org/conference/programglance.asp). Feel free to drop in and tell me whether the PowerPoint slides are illustrative or distracting. I’m always trying for the former but concerned about the latter.

Brad Einarsen


Re: How do I turn this thing on? (Nov. 20)

Good article. I think this could be a growing problem as technology “”solutions”” become more complex and more expensive. I believe one of the problems is the way in which software and technology is sold, kind of like sports cars where the engineering may be solid but it is the flash and image which is being promoted. And few of those cars will be driven in conditions that utilize their performance capabilities.

We will also probably see more of the “”Emperor has no clothes”” scenario now, where CEOs (and many of us!) are afraid to admit that we don’t understand what someone is talking about, don’t really believe in it, but just don’t want to oppose the trend or admit to a lack of knowledge.

But my biggest concern is that we all have operational problems and challenges of one sort or another, but no matter how great the technology is, it doesn’t help if the underlying business process is incomplete, inefficient, or faulty.

Larry Gemmel
Chief information officer
United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada


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