Top 6 Fallacies About PowerPoint Presentations
Use emotion to connect to your audience. It's important.
Got it! Let's check that bullet point off the list!Now let's make some sense.
Beyond connecting emotionally, presenters also need to make sense. When presenters pander almost exclusively to emotion
, they often woefully neglect the rules of logic. And many presenters grease over logic with a slick style. Their audiences seem seduced by the glamorous design of the presentation -- or the pleasing, popular personality of the presenter.
It can be a fun exercise to call a "Time Out for Logical Fallacies!" Using social media tools like Twitter
, you can play a game of "Logical Fallacy Bingo" as you watch slick presenters play fast and loose with the rules of logic.
Here's how to play:
Just for grins, let's cover some examples of logical fallacies that we often hear about PowerPoint -- the tool many love to hate. For your Tweeting back channel
pleasure, I've also taken the liberty of inventing "Twitter Fallacy Hashtags" you can use when you're listening to a speech, press conference, or presentation. You can either call out the fallacy as the speaker uses them -- or simply Tweet the hashtag with the correct fallacy technique.
The six fallacies I'll cover in this post are:
- False Analogy (#Fanal)
- Post Hoc (#PostHoc)
- Contradictory Premises (#ConPrem)
- Ad Misericordiam (#AdMis)
- Hasty Generalization (#HastyG)
- Poisoning The Well (#PTWell)
1. False Analogy
False Analogy Example: "Construction workers use blueprints to guide them as they build. Doctors use X-rays and MRI images as diagnostic aids. Therefore, presenters should use PowerPoint slides as teleprompters during live-audience presentations. "
This argument, of course, is the fallacy of "False Analogy". Why? Blueprints and MRIs are created as visual aids for the construction worker and doctor. A presenter's visual aids are intended for the audience. The comparison, therefore, is invalid.
When a presenter tries to directly connect different situations and goals, they are making a False Analogy. Call them on it, or Tweet #FAnal
2. Post Hoc
Post Hoc Example: "Let's not use PowerPoint for our next presentation. Every time we use PowerPoint, the audience gets bored."
PowerPoint doesn't cause boredom. Not even close. Audience boredom is often caused by bad design, poor storytelling, a monotonous voice, insufferable presentation skills, lack of audience research, or any number of other factors. Those who blame the software tool for boredom are guilty of the fallacy of Post Hoc.
In fact, anyone who can't show a clear cause and effect is guilty of Post Hoc
and can Tweet #PostHoc. Call them on it.3. Contradictory Premises
Contradictory Premises Example: "The human brain ignores boring presentations. Therefore, a boring presentation was created by a human without a brain."
This sounds good. Heck, it even sounds right! But when the premises of an argument contradict each other, there can be no argument. If there is an irresistible force, there can be no immovable object. People with functioning brains create boring presentations. And they do so consciously, with rabid attention to boring, minute detail.
Call out "Contradictory Premises" or hashtag "#ConPrem" when you hear an example of this kind of logical fallacy in a speech or presentation.
4. Ad Misericordiam
The Question & Answer portion of a presentation is often a big Ad Misericordiam
festival. In Ad Misericordiam
, the presenter doesn't answer the question you ask, and instead appeals to your emotions or sympathy. Ad Misericordiam
is an extremely popular Q & A technique in business and political press conferences.Ad Misericordiam
Example: Suppose during the Question and Answer period of a presentation, you ask a presenter, "You said our brains ignore boring presentations. If that's true, what about all the subconscious and subliminal stuff our brains capture? Don't our brains really absorb almost everything? Isn't it proven that we can recall boring stuff with incredible accuracy under hypnosis or in our dreams? And why do we talk so much about presentations that bore us? Surely our brains notice -- and even categorize our boredom in painstaking detail!"
The presenter answers, "I put a lot of effort into making my presentation simple and easy to understand for the lay person. You're splitting hairs, muddying the waters, and making it hard for regular people to understand important concepts. I don't deserve this kind of specificity or a bitter, ruthless attack on my scientific integrity."
In the above Q&A example, you'll note that the presenter hasn't really answered your question at all. Instead, the presenter tried to rouse audience pity. The presenter also tried to shame, belittle, or humiliate you for asking rather obvious questions. In this way, the presenter committed the fallacy of Ad Misericordiam.
Feel free to shout "Ad Misericordiam
" when the presenter doesn't answer the question you asked and appeals to pity instead. Or Tweet Hashtag it with #AdMis
5. Hasty Generalization
Hasty Generalization Example: "I've seen quite a few boring PowerPoint presentations in my day. So have a lot of other people I know. Therefore, all PowerPoint presentations are boring."
In this case, there are far too few examples to reach a conclusion. You've may have seen plenty of bad PowerPoint presentations. But you've also seen some darn interesting ones! So have other people! When a generalization is realized too quickly -- you can shout out, "Hasty Generalization" or tag "#HastyG"
Remember, demanding specificity is the enemy of wacky generalizations!
6. Poisoning the Well
Poisoning the Well Example: Imagine I'm in a debate. My opponent gets up first and says, "Laura is a known fool. She doesn't have a lick of sense, and you cannot believe a word she is going to say."
Of course this isn't fair. I don't stand a chance if I'm called an idiot before I even begin my presentation. The audience is cheated out of the opportunity of finding that out for themselves! My opponent has "poisoned the well" before the audience had an opportunity to drink from it. When you see people "Poisoning the Well" -- call them on it. #PTWell
There are many more fallacies, of course. The six fallacies above are just a few examples about PowerPoint presentations. Fallacies can also be found running rampant in press conferences, media interviews, and current events.
For example, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appears to be a walking, talking fallacy factory lately! For example:
- Comparisons to Ghandi? False Analogy.
- Citing roots as a son of poor immigrants at the impeachment trial? Ad Misericordiam.
- Inviting investigators to record you, then later expressing dismay at being recorded while under investigation? Contradictory Premises, anyone?
What fallacies do you hear most often? And what lulus have you been hearing in the news or in presentations lately?
Labels: fallacies, fun, PowerPoint Presentation
The First Social Media President
Barack Obama became the US president today. An estimated 2 million+ people came to Washington DC to witness the historic inauguration.
But those who followed the DC event online are also a part of history. We are among the first to watch an inauguration while following the back channel chatter of millions of other viewers. As I watched video coverage on CNN online, I simultaneously followed the running commentary
of friends on FaceBook.
Listening to professional commentators cover the event became less powerful or interesting than noting the comments of friends and family. Similarly, on Twitter, many tagged Tweets with #inaug09
to mark their thoughts as they watched the historical event.What does all this back channel commenting mean?
It means that, like always, people bond over events and interesting content. Major events give people something to talk about with each other. Thoughts that spring to mind leap instantly to screen, where they can be noticed, monitored, and tracked. In a way, this inauguration marks the dawning of the age of our first social media president.
Obama's team appears to have embraced social media.
FDR was our first radio president. Truman was likely the first president to tentatively harness the power of TV. Clinton may have been our first internet-ready president. We already know that the nation's new president plans weekly online video addresses. His team launched the Barack Obama YouTube Channel
. A Barack Obama FaceBook page
. A Twitter presence
. Within hours of his presidency, we also saw a blog spring up at WhiteHouse.gov
. Old content at WhiteHouse.gov was not archived - it was demolished.
Open and accessible communication.
It's one thing to have a blog, a YouTube Channel, a FaceBook Page, a Twitter presence. It's quite another to keep it thriving with fresh content. And it's yet another to listen to the many diverse voices that will be springing up with comments and criticism. How well will the new president and his team listen and respond to millions of voices that cry out on these new social media channels?
Perhaps the answer lies in the inaugural address. "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them..."
President Obama seems to have captured the imagination of his public with his ever-present theme of change. He acknowledges change. And it's not just the economic and political landscape that is experiencing radical change. Technology and communication styles are changing rapidly, as well.
How well will the new US president continue to embrace an open and accessible communication style? In what ways will the new administration use social media to listen and communicate with various constituencies throughout the world?
And how do you like following major events online? Were the FaceBook-powered updates on CNN helpful -- or distracting?
Labels: Blogging, social media
How to Take PowerPoint Personally
The Passion of the PowerPoint. I'm stunned by the passion that PowerPoint (yes, humble PowerPoint!) can arouse! My previous Propaganda, PowerPoint and You inspired Olivia Mitchell to launch a group blogging project. She asked other bloggers to write about what they'd like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009.
To date, Olivia has received over 40 passionate responses from bloggers all over the world! Most are amazing, well-reasoned, and thoughtful. Some are funny, witty, silly. But almost all are passionate!
photo credit: Arbron
Had to grin at Seth Godin's response about my "Propaganda" post. He wrote:
“Simple: she’s wrong. As the first person to speak up and out about single ideas/images and death to bullets, I take this one personally. Resist temptation. Do not backslide!”
This response reminds me of a line from the 1968 Television Mockumentary, How to Irritate People.
In this pre-Monty Python sketch comedy assortment
, John Cleese says (something like),
"If you go to a party and announce, 'The trouble with women is that they take everything personally!', about 4 women will jump up and say, 'Well, I don't!'"
How to take things personally.
You can take things personally if someone:
- actually names you.
- refers to you as a pronoun.
- judges you morally!
I didn't mention Mr. Godin in my post, so why would he take it personally? Godin is hardly the first person to recognize that propaganda techniques can be effective at persuading! As for my being "wrong" -- about what? Noticing that people seem as irritated with propaganda-heavy presentations as they are with deeply analytical presentations? Posing a few benign "what do you think" and "how about" questions in a blog post?
That brand of "wrong" was pervasive in Amerika for the past 8 years. Hopefully, it's on the way out.
photo credit: istopcrappics
I'll repeat: many people seem bored. In 2008, I was often an audience member where presentation content and design relied almost exclusively on propaganda techniques. It was merely tedious in sales and marketing presentations, but wildly inappropriate for technical training and scientific demonstrations.
The backlash against this approach is palpable. As an audience member, I feel it. I also witness others fidgeting uncomfortably. I hear whispers. I see people shout stuff like -- "Where's the beef? Hasty Generalization! Dicto Simplicter! Ad Nauseum!" and the like -- when they're watching a webinar littered with information-light, carefully-crafted, simple-image PowerPoint slides.
And yes, I read the snarky Tweets in the back channels
. And hear the gossip in the hallways and break rooms at conferences. (You can, too.)
I've witnessed the backlash first hand in 2008. A lot more than I have room for in one blog post!
So I noted the backlash. And I asked questions about it. I wondered if another approach would rise up and become popular in 2009. I suggested that a "middle road" might occur with a swing of the pendulum.
In my world, it's not wrong to note trends or ask questions!
That's so 2001.
In 2009, you can listen to your audience talk back on social media channels. You can also choose to engage or ignore the rise of an increasingly media-savvy audience. Hopefully, a more dynamic public will start recognizing heavy-handed propaganda techniques -- and start talking about them. People are already pushing back on Twitter, on blogs, at Bar Camps
-- how long will it take for the backlash to happen in person at industry conferences, classrooms, and corporate meetings?
Labels: design, fun, PowerPoint, social media
Social Media Inspired PowerPoint Design for 2009
"What would you like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009?"
That's what Olivia Mitchell, who writes the fantastic Speaking About Presenting
blog, asked me last month. Now, Olivia didn't ask just me: she also acted as community organizer, posing the question to a plethora of presentation bloggers. She asked us to write one post on this topic.
Many have already posted replies at their blogs. (Olivia promises to organize these posts at her blog later this month, for your finding & reading enjoyment. When you visit her blog, subscribe, and you'll be alerted! Lots of great ideas!)
My PowerPoint design wishes for 2009?
- The look and feel of social media techniques will transition into PowerPoint design.
- Presentations will be designed with audience participation -- and push back -- in mind.
Yeah, I want design that stimulates thoughtful discussion. I prefer design that inspires action and meaningful audience participation. So what might this kind of PowerPoint design look like?
I'm a big fan of Twitter. And many of my blogging colleagues are on Twitter, as well. Read this amazing Tweet from design virtuoso Tony Ramos
Short, Simple, Tweet.
The brevity of Twitter can make you a better designer. A better headline writer. A better presenter. Using and studying Twitter can be a powerful exercise in how to get your point across swiftly and succinctly. Twitter is enjoying phenomenal growth. The more people use Twitter, the more your audience will come to expect powerful brevity in all communication media. Start using this "short and sweet" writing technique in your 2009 PowerPoint design. (You can follow me at Twitter
: I'll be honored!)
Meet Your Audience. Yes, you can often use various social media outlets -- Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, your own blog, YouTube, et. al. -- to meet your audience pre-presentation, to get a better feel for who they are and what some of their questions and concerns may be about your topic. Such a wonderful technique, to get to know a few audience members before you give a talk -- to tailor your speech, to use their names, to personalize the presentation!
Over five years ago, the engaging Joi Ito wrote of the heckle bot
. Brilliant! While you're speaking, your audience can give you feedback on your performance. Today, the Twitter back channel
is the new heckle bot, giving a speaker instant performance feedback. Of course, it's awfully hard to read Tweets while you're performing -- but you can review your back channel comments afterwards to continually improve your performance and design.
Grassroots, D-I-Y Design.
I'm quite encouraged that people are using social media channels to talk back. I'm thrilled to see people challenge corporate, political, and thought leaders on these online, public platforms. So naturally, I'm pleased to see that, like social media, PowerPoint design still takes a (mostly) grassroots, bootstrapping, D-I-Y approach to design. They may not always be pretty, polished, or professional -- but I've seen many presenters persuade with their passion.
Less Propaganda. I use propaganda techniques in presentations. It can be effective for persuading. But persuading isn't the only purpose in giving a presentation. Sometimes, you'll want to spark an honest, intelligent, and interactive discussion. As a presenter, there are times when you'll want to learn from your audience. Social media can be an effective channel for encouraging lively dialog -- and so can a PowerPoint presentation that isn't overly focused on manipulating the audience into taking your side.
Willingness to be wrong or unpopular is a virtue. After all, how many of us are tired of the "If you're not with me, you're against me!" bandwagon approach? And how many people have been a little too frightened to do nothing but fawn and spray positive comments over popular presenters, speakers, bloggers, and leaders -- to disastrous global effect?
We need fewer "You're wrong / I'm right / Think my way / Because I'm popular, rich, and powerful" approaches. We need more intelligent dissenters.
PowerPoint to the People. Right On
. OK. One more old-fashioned, light-hearted wish: if you're a PowerPoint Do-It-Yourselfer without a power base or budget, how will you ever get your message noticed if you look and sound exactly like everyone else? How appropriate is it for you to be overly stylized and design-conscious? Why not spurn design fashion altogether... and create your own passionate and persuasive storytelling style? Or why not steal the techniques
of timeless publicity and propaganda hounds?
And as always, you're welcome to disagree with me or continue the discussion in the comments below!
What would YOU like to see in PowerPoint design in 2009?
Labels: design, PowerPoint, Presentation, social media
Jing Pro is a Winner!
TechSmith released Jing Pro this week.
It's a winner. A wow.
Like many, I used the free Jing
project to quickly create visual voicemails and disposable learning objects
. So when I read about the new Jing Pro, I simply wanted it.Impulse Purchase!
Even though I had a 3:00 meeting yesterday, I whipped out my credit card at 2:50pm to impulse purchase Jing Pro online
. By 2:54, I bought, downloaded, installed, recorded, and uploaded a 38 second test video
to the Screencast server. (I even had time to Tweet about my Jing Pro experience at 2:57pm
. And yeah, I made it to my meeting in time!)Phenomenal Features.
So why did I yearn for Jing Pro, when I currently enjoy using the free version?
Better for you than candy.
- Social Media Ready. One button lets you pump your Jing Pro video straight to your YouTube Channel. Or you can "save as" MP4 to your hard drive -- so that you can upload your video to your FaceBook page. You can also use Jing to capture an on-screen image, which you can upload directly to a Flickr set (or save on your hard drive.)
- Logo Free. With Jing Free, you see the Jing logo at the beginning and end of each video. Not so with Jing Pro! The new Jing logo has been stripped for a 100% clean video. (Although when I previously sent Jing videos to clients, the logo was often a conversation starter! "What's this thing called Jing? It's neat: can I get it, too?")
- Blazing Fast. All too frequently, I can record & post an online Jing video in less time than it takes for me to leave a voicemail for a client. By avoiding the "voicemail + return phone call maze", everyone saves time. I post the video, email a link, and ask clients to watch a video response. This improves productivity, while creating a better "Show & Tell" presentation experience.
You can get Jing Pro with a one year subscription. And get this -- it's currently only $14.95 for 12 months. The low price made it a better-than-candy impulse purchase -- but I rather expect this is a non-fattening purchase I will enjoy throughout 2009!
How will you use Jing Pro or Jing Free in 2009?
Labels: Presentation, Presentation Applications, social media, video
The Top 5 Reasons Why You Love Bullet Points
So nobody likes bullet point presentations anymore.
Then why do some of the most popular headlines today read:
- "25 ways to..."
- "Ten Reasons Why..."
- "Three Secrets of..."
- "The Top 100..."
- and so forth?
And then, after reading these headlines that promise us some hot bullet point action, what happens?
Why, we read the bullet point articles!We are seduced by this type of headline.
We click on 'em. We pick up magazines with "magic number" headlines on the cover, knowing full well they will lead us to an article filled with bullet points or a numbered list!
Bullet points and numbered list presentations are particularly popular this time of year. End-of-the-year countdowns and top predictions are usually cheap and easy to produce.
And people seem hypnotized by the magnetic "magic number" headline.
Many blog readers cannot help but click on these "Top 10" type headlines when they see them on Digg
or on Twitter
or in their favorite blog reader. TV viewers cannot seem to resist watching cheaply produced countdown shows on cable channels that begin "The Top 100 Name-Something-Here."
After reading the article or watching the TV show with a headline that promises a bullet point presentation of information, you might feel content or vaguely satisfied. The bullet-point article didn't make you think too much. It was fun & easy to digest. Maybe it confirmed something you already knew. Or maybe you learned some concept, so that you can share your new found knowledge with others.
So why do we love bullet point articles and clip TV shows --
while claiming to hate PowerPoint bullet points?
In a 2006 Copyblogger post titled Little Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points
, Brian Clark writes, "Bullet points are maligned because most people don’t know how to write them."
So why not learn the techniques behind writing compelling headlines? And why not learn to write scrumptious bullet points that are every bit as addictive as a Letterman Top 10 list?
Done well, bullet points can be effective, persuasive, and even entertaining!
Happy 2009! It's the beginning of a new year! Audit yourself: how many "Bullet Point" shows and articles will you read this year? (How many have you already consumed?)
And how will you use the beloved PowerPoint bullet point to better engage and persuade your audience?
Labels: PowerPoint Presentation, Presentation