Master accounting teacher Joe Hoyle (U of Richmond) asks and attempts to answer a very relevant question in, “Lessons from Dilbert,” on September 28 at his blog, Teaching: Getting the Most from Your Students. His essay is based on the first pane of a Dilbert cartoon from Scott Adams:
I love this cartoon because Dilbert approaches an expert on garbage to find out about PowerPoint. Is this an example of a simile or metaphor? Have you ever heard the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint?” Adams could also have used a funeral home operator or grave digger in his cartoon.
Hoyle goes on to offer two hints on a better PowerPoint presentation: a maximum of ten words per slide, and ask a question on every slide. He then admits he’ll use 50 PowerPoint slides in his next presentation. I think questions are good, but ten words is a bit much. 50 slides is about 30 more than needed for a decent assassination.
When making a speech (or presentation), most of us metaphorically suck. The best speeches (or lectures or presentations) rouse and inspire. Although TED Talks do that, most of us don’t get asked to present a TED Talk because we are unable to rouse and inspire.
Twenty years ago, the knock on business and accounting education was that the building temperature was always ten degrees warmer than any other building on campus. Why? Heavy use of overhead projectors. Today the knock is that business and accounting students nap longer and better in class than other students on campus due to heavy use of PowerPoint. The same could be said about most business and accounting presentations out in the professional world.
We know the best collegiate educational practices involve engaging students through having them practice realistic exercises in class. I have taken this route to becoming a popular and effective teacher.
Never-the-less, boring lecture (with or without PowerPoint) endures as the presentation style of choice by a majority of professors and business speakers. There are only a very few who are great orators. Through the power of their oratory, they are able to plant important lessons into the minds of their students.
So, how does one become a rousing and inspirational speaker (an orator)? When I took freshman speech class many years ago, the objective of the class was to get us only to where we didn’t embarrass ourselves during a speech. I didn’t learn much. Through decades of trial and error, I’m not sure where I’m at.
I’m guessing that most great speakers don’t fully understand how they do it. If they did, by now perhaps one would have tried to teach the rest of us.
The best book on the subject I’ve read is about sticky ideas. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, is written by Chip and Dan Heath. I do not know the Heaths, nor do I have any idea as to why they should be viewed as credible. However, I have read much of the book and their ideas seem sound to me. Keep in mind that I’m not a master orator, so may not be a good judge.
A review by Christopher Johnson summarizes the book’s key ideas as:
The authors cover 6 essential characteristics of ideas that last and impact those they come in contact with:
- The core message should be simple.
- Presentation should be unexpected.
- The imagery should be concrete.
- There must be credibility to the idea.
- People are emotional and ideas that stick should not forget the emotional element of “human-ness”
- Stories can carry ideas farther than facts and figures can.
If more professors, accountants and business speakers became rousing and inspirational speakers, there would be far fewer complaints about the boring use of PowerPoint.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht