Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the January 8, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Focus on PowerPoint
Oh, and Jones, make that a PowerPoint presentation.
Instinctively, you cringe at your boss’s alliterative addendum. You’ve
labored with this much-touted business tool before: cursed, pounded,
and shaken the infernal box, which whimsically disobeyed your agonizing
programming. You have seen its effect on audiences who laugh in sympathetic
embarrassment as it crashes mid-show. Is Microsoft’s PowerPoint only
magnificent in theory or does it have some workable business benefits?
A free presentation on "How to Use PowerPoint," sponsored
by the Princeton P.C. Users Group, takes place on Monday, January
13, at 7:45 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library.
president of the group, focuses on the basics as well as on a series
of specific advanced options.
The Princeton P.C. Users Group is a loose-knit cadre connected by
phone, E-mail, and monthly meetings, which are open to the public.
Kurivchack says the group is made up of PC users running along the
entire range of skills. "Some are business people with defined
needs, many want to just get more out of the machines they’ve got,
and most," he says, "come for a social evening out, accompanied
with some solid learning." For information call.
Computer Magazine refers to PowerPoint as "the category killer."
It accounts for at least 95 percent of the presentation software market,
leaving Harvard Graphics Advanced Presentations, Corel Presentations,
and Lotus with the crumbs. Interestingly, as with many new Microsoft
products, PowerPoint does not seem to have killed the category with
"There are a host of things PowerPoint does not have the power
to do simply and flawlessly," says Kurivchack. The limited color
and type font selections have proved a popular frustration, particularly
for those who have worked with PhotoShop and its hundreds of color
Yet while everyone seems to have some favorite PowerPoint crash story,
Kurivchack hastens to add that every presentation holds risks, no
matter what the tools. From flip charts to laptops, few are the presentation
tools this salesman has left untried. Following his boyhood in South
Plainfield, Kurivchack attended Trenton State College, earning an
electrical engineering degree. He soon found a career selling high
tech equipment, including microprocessor-based computers and sensors.
Having worked for several years as a Viacom employee, Kurivchack continues
to troubleshoot and promote for that firm’s productions, including
Nickelodeon, as part of Raritan-based, IBM Global Services. During
one four-year project, he traveled continuously to three different
cities a week, making two presentations a day. He has blended everything
from the computer to dual-dissolving slide projectors, flip charts
to bouncing graphics to musical videos to keep audiences enthralled.
The short learning curve for most simple presentations makes PowerPoint
an excellent tool. However, it holds a very high fanciness-to-risk
ratio. "If your average computer user just wants to give a nice
half-hour show, using a standard type font against one or two background
colors," Kurivchack notes, "PowerPoint typically can be constructed
swiftly and will deliver flawlessly." The trouble comes when the
designer’s creativity grows beyond his patience. Following a basic
checklist of caveats can help prevent your show from becoming one
of those PowerPoint disaster stories:
megahertz with 126 to 258K of RAM should prove ample for a standard
30-minute presentation. This excludes many of the older laptops, which
are known to lock-up under the strain in mid-presentation. Once you
move into complex graphics and add some CD background music, it may
take a one gigahertz processor to power the PowerPoint presentation.
50 slides and with each slide the logo is set in a slightly different
place on the screen, your audience will be driven to distraction.
This jiggling ball, like some poorly attempted cinema-verite film,
will increasingly draw their mental focus away from your theme. This
is a common mistake, and correcting it can be difficult. Kurivchack
suggests that employing a master-slide shortcut allows the user to
imbue all slides with the overlay in the exact same spot. Whatever
method you use, preview your work.
laughs Kurivchack. "The show had lavish dissolves, solid bullets
points all curtained over with fly-ins. So impressive a creation…so
impossible to understand." The designer announced proudly that
this was to be shown to a group of top lawyers at Paramount Pictures.
Kurivchack dryly replied, "What’s the matter? Don’t you like lawyers?"
Such clever showmanship too often creates a visual overload. Again
the problem of focal point becomes prime. Not only should speed and
complexity be held in tight rein, but the general visual point of
reference ideally should remain relatively fixed from slide to slide.
In any presentation, the designer must constantly remind herself that
the message is the message — not the medium. Convince your audience
with simple, unimpeachable fact that this new product will boost sales
27 percent, and they will invest no matter how brightly the pie chart
talks typically run 45 minutes to an hour at most," says states
Kurivchack. "Does that give you a clue?" It is no secret to
anyone, except perhaps a few long-winded lecturers, that audiences
seek a few nuggets of information, quickly served, which they can
take away and remember. Not only is brain and verbiage overload a
problem for the listener, but business leaders fear the training time
issue. Training and development for even simple sessions typically
gobbles up at least an entire half day of an employee’s worktime.
In the face of such cost, programs are often cut. In response, Kurivchack
developed his "20-minute lunch seminars," containing one idea
per one session. His students rated it the most successful seminar
they had experienced.
Projector bulbs explode, laptops lock up, or music disks whine slowly
to a halt. The one element that can keep the audience’s focus off
the blunder and back on the important million dollar ad campaign is
you — the presenter. You are the backup and you are the individual
presenting the powerful, urgent message. So take the time and transform
PowerPoint into a trusty tool. But you might want to hone PowerPoint’s
master at the same time. No sense in having you both lock up.
— Bart Jackson
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