When I was in grade school I remember loathing presentation day in school. I didn’t hate it because I was afraid to present (I wasn’t) or because I thought it was boring (I don’t think I did). I loathed it because some student would inevitably bring in a huge piece of poster board that they’d spend hours writing all over in every different color. That’s not so bad, you say. You could be correct. Most of the time, however, it really was that bad. The single thing that got under my skin like nothing else, the thing that drove my batty and made me loath presentation day, was that several students would use yellow marker on white poster board. They’d use it for single letters in words, entire words, or even entire sections and it was terrible. Do you know why it was terrible? You couldn’t read it. You couldn’t see it at all.
Fast forward to the future where presentation software on computers allows anyone to (relatively) effortlessly create “slides” with all sorts of transitions to transmit all sorts of “information” (or not). I remember being in high school and seeing the same things happen again. Yellow lettering and sections were now beams of light instead of pigment on poster boards. The effect, however, was the same: hard to read (if not impossible) presentations that induced frustration and distraction in their audience.
I’m pretty good at giving presentations. I spend LOTS of time on them (seriously — way more than you think) and that pays off. I recently defended (successfully) my dissertation proposal. The visual arts faculty on my committee specifically remarked how lovely my presentation was. Particularly, he was pleased with the overall look of the presentation. Its simplicity, attention to detail, and unified focus (in the design). That took time. I work very hard on those elements every time I give a presentation. I’ve found one brief presentation both amusing and helpful. You can visit it here (warning: there is mild language). Bottom line: take the time give a good presentation. It really does pay off.