I have just come across the handouts (“the acts”) given out at an important conference held recently in a central location in Milano on the topic of health and safety in the workplace.
I found them to be a collection of the slides presented by everyone, as is usually the case, giving me a chance to evaluate the styles used. From the looks of it, I think that the audience suffered “death by PowerPoint” once again while they heard these presentations.
The slides are very full of text, written with a very small font, and contain many long sentences, which I suppose the speaker read. Certainly, in these cases, it is easier for the presenter because he just reads and can prepare less, but the slides become “the speech” and the speaker becomes a simple “reader”. Do you know that the audience reads faster than the voice of the speaker? As a result, when the audience will have finished reading all the text on the slide on their own, it is possible that the speaker will only be at the beginning of the text. How boring to have to wait for the speaker to finish all the text! I hope that some of the speakers were more brilliant than their slides.
The presenter’s speech should hold up on its own (what if a technical problem made projection impossible, what would have happened?) and slides should only be a support medium to help the audience remember. Recent studies indicate that well-chosen images, used as background to a speech, help the public to remember, while masses of text, projected and read by the presenter, are usually forgotten in a very short time. But these were not the only defects I noted.
I was very surprised to see grammar and spelling errors. I think that presentation slides, even more when they contain a lot of text, must always be read and checked with a lot of care to avoid these mistakes. I suggest that after running the spellchecker built into the software, we make other people read our slides before presenting them or publishing them: another pair of eyes will see errors that we have missed, errors that would give a negative impression to the public, who will certainly find them.