There’s a lot of buzz that PowerPoint should be abolished. In fact, in Switzerland, the trend has borne an entire political party, the Anti-PowerPoint Party (APPP). The call to end the use of PowerPoint presentations is not a new phenomenon. I can understand why people love to hate presentation software… it’s a convenient way to explain why presentations stink. It’s not about their slides or their presentation style!
Does the “death to PowerPoint” movement make you feel inadequate? Uncool? Uninformed, and out of date? Stop feeling like a hack and think logically. It’s not the software!
Repeat after me: PowerPoint and the other presentation software packages like SlideRocket, Keynote, and Prezi are not really responsible for mind-numbing presentations. It’s like saying a fork is responsible for a horrible meal.
Come on now, folks… Let’s be rational. Could it be that presenters often use presentation software poorly? Of course. Often presenters don’t use best practice in adult learning theory . They don’t think about how they would like to be engaged if they were in the audience. And they don’t take the time to seek out any of the easy-to-find tips and tricks that can help them deliver powerful presentations. Oh no… they just slap up bullets and charts and proceed to read from them. BORING.
By the way, webinars would be pretty hard to do with flipcharts, and using webcams for talking heads gets old after a while. Virtual presentations require even more skill to engage participants, so it’s critical to learn more and do more when you present virtually.
Stop blaming the tools and buying the hogwash from people who are trying to sell you another method. Brush up on your technique and learn a little bit about best practice. Think about how to communicate authentically with the people who come to hear you share your expertise. Here are some great resources to help you avoid the pitfalls of heavy dependance on bad slides:
The Virtual Presenter Blog by Roger Courville
Make Better Presentations – The Anatomy of a Good Speech by Chris Brogan
Great Webinars by Cynthia Clay
Presentation Zen, the Blog
Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds
17 Examples of Great Presentation Design on Hubspot
Really Bad Powerpoint by Seth Godin
There are literally thousands of really great resources to help you use PowerPoint (or your favorite presentation software package) well. There’s no reason to feel badly because you use slides. But you should feel terrible if you use slides poorly. Don’t be lazy and blame the tools, get off the stick and learn something new to dazzle and engage your participants.
It’s interesting to see how people who are weary of change react when change becomes inevitable. Take, for example, the recent flap over the draft update to the NAEYC Technology Position Statement. Some very respected leaders in early childhood education, including Diane Levin, Meg Merrill, and Susan Linn, have taken exception to the draft, and have issued a “call to action” to the field to respond to the draft. While I also urge everyone to take (hopefully) one last chance to weigh in on the draft, I (with all due respect) take exception to some of the extreme assertions and misinformation they published about the draft.
Now, bear in mind that this Position Statement has been in the works for more than a year, and there was already one comment period. The authors incorporated the comments into the most recent draft. In order to accommodate all the viewpoints, another comment period was offered to members. This (hopefully final) comment period ends May 31.
So is all of this much ado about nothing? I think it is. I believe the arguments set forth by many of the “anti-technology” contingent muddle the waters with inapplicable arguments and inaccurate insinuations. While the detractors of the draft statement sometimes make meaningful points to consider, they are obscured within exaggerations and out of context statements. Don’t get me wrong, I think a little refinement might be in order, but many of the statements completely off-target.
Point, Counterpoint: My perspective on the drama
I’ll address the points in the statement entitled “Do preschoolers need mandatory screen time?” on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website:
If we don’t act now, the pressure on early childcare programs to incorporate screen time into their core curriculum will intensify. With preschoolers already spending an average of 32 hours per week with screens outside of classrooms, the last thing they need is mandatory screen time in school or daycare.
1) “Pressure” and “screen time”? Position papers do not pressure or direct association members to do anything. They state positions from a high level. No obligations are stated, implied, or intended in this draft or any other position paper NAEYC has ever issued.
2) If children are already spending time in front of screens at home (which is clearly a class issue) shouldn’t we issue guidance to parents instead of ECE programs? Shouldn’t parents turn off the TV and shut down the computers to spend quality time with their children? Isn’t it more likely that professionals will make constructive use of interactive technology than parents who don’t know a lot about child development? Do we not trust the programs who are members of NAEYC to use technology judiciously?
3) The data, including the statement “32 hours” of “screen time” used out of context. Numbers are bandied about recklessly. Is this data about children birth to 8? Is the data reflective of TV/Video use or interactive technology, or what? All screens are not made equal. It’s irresponsible to generalize data and use it when it does not apply. That is a tactic for extremists. Extremism is bad for early childhood education.
4) Remember, the concept of Developmentally Appropriate Practice was developed by NAEYC. Clearly NAEYC does not advocate sitting groups of children down for instruction on computers or for anything else.
Prescribes that screen technologies should be included in all early childhood settings, regardless of the age of the children served or type of program. Even play-based and outdoor preschools will be expected to incorporate screens.
Provides no objective criteria or guidance to educators about whether or when to incorporate screens into their classrooms.
Does not address the growing problem of screen-based commercialism in preschools.
4) The draft does not prescribe anything. It does not “mandate” “screen time”. It is clear that NAEYC does not and cannot “mandate” anything. It is a voluntary membership organization that offers high level position statements. How can you make the leap from a position paper from a membership organization to “…expected to…” do anything?
5) In general, position statements are not standards. They simply outline an organization’s position from a very high level. They:
- do not include in-depth summaries of research, but do include citations upon which the statement was built.
- do not include a lot of direct guidance. They outline the position of the organization, which sets the stage for books, articles, policies, and procedures that will offer more guidance.
- cannot encompass detailed discussions of every possible negative result, but should offer high level guidance about the possible consequences and problems, as this draft does. Commercialism in media are not a part of a statement intended to discuss the use of interactive technology in the classroom. The authors of this draft were careful to carve out a specific path to discuss interactive technologies in the classroom to set the position statement apart from discussions about violent and otherwise harmful media and commercialism.
I’m issuing my own call to action: Let’s all agree that we are doing our best to help early childhood educators learn more about how to use interactive technology with intention and responsibility. Let’s take extremism out of the equation, use information in context, and think strategically about how to make progress. While I also urge everyone to send comments, I also urge you to use reason and offer ideas within the context of a position statement. If you need to write a book that builds upon or contradicts NAEYC’s position statement, have at it.
Explore the real issues: How to evaluate interactive technology
ECE Tech: Beyond Debate-How To Evaluate Children’s Interactive Technology Tools and Media
You’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.
Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.
In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.
Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:
- demonstrating products
- technology orientations
- professional development
- building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership
Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.
Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?
The (Potentially) BAD
Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.
- You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
- Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
- You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
- While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
- You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
- The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
- You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
- Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.
Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…
Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:
Join me for a presentation on
11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM
NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012
in Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308
Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.