It’s just NOT academic

As the title of the blog attests, the underlying beliefs supporting the nature of presentations reflect those of Presentation Zen. Garr Reynolds, the Sensei, has much to share and teach on presentation, learning and the future of storytelling.

The sadness of making the break from “Death by Powerpoint” is that many, particularly academics and clinicians, respond to such presentations saying, “It’s just not academic”. Is this true or just an excuse?

To answer such a statement will take more than one simple blog post but there are various aspects to the argument. What does “academic” mean?  Do (standard) Powerpoint presentations work? Do Zen-type presentations work? What do the audience think? 

The last point is a good place to start. Sadly, many students and audiences expect “powerpoint”. They want information delivered to them in a readily processed manner, easily viewed and easily stored. Pedagogues argue at the value and nature of this as learning seeing it simply as presenting information. The challenge to recipients is questioning whether the last presentation they attended has led directly to retention of the information provided and in particular by the way it was presented. Did the presentation work is of course a very subjective question particularly as we have, by passivity, decided that “powerpoint” is the way to present information. We appear to have transmuted “give a presentation” to “give a powerpoint” allowing the slides to themselves become the point and purpose of the exercise. 

Yet as an audience member, the vast majority recognise the failings of such an approach particularly when thrown into sharp contrast by those such as Garr Reynolds delivering information, passion, enthusiasm and hope with their presentations. What is “given” is more than simply that delivered by the projector.

The argument can then extended that this is no way to present science or facts because it is “serious”. Exactly where it is decreed that that learning should be serious is not clear. Nor that it should be boring. Nor that the information should be lost almost as it is delivered. Nor that it should even be a “powerpoint”. Somehow, conformity, rigidity, tedium, lists and reading them out verbatim has become the norm and the sought after pinnacle of “teaching”. Some would beg to differ.

Was that how Aristotle did it? Or Einstein? Or your favourite teacher? Just because everyone else does it that way neither defines science nor education and shouldn’t constrain your presentation. Share your passion, your knowledge, your thoughts in your way.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.