Zen and the art of presentation

Ever gone to a conference all enthused about a speaker who is supposedly tops in his or her field, only to be let down when he or she clicks on the big-screen presentation?

Me too.

Regardless of your business, Really Bad PowerPoint (pdf) can disillusion even the heartiest conference-goer. And when administrators and other talkers use PowerPoint slides as oversized cue cards, it makes those of us in the business of marketing and communications writhe in agony.

Which is why I would love for academic administrators to read the worthwhile advice Garr Reynolds offers on his blog, Presentation Zen. His post on the contrasting presentation styles of two lords of the computing industry, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, should be required reading for anyone who wields a laptop and LCD projector.

Take a look at the examples below. Forget for a minute about who is presenting. Focus on the presentation. Beginner’s mind, people.

So, which of these presentations would you rather sit in on?

This one?

Steve Jobs presenting

Or this one?

Bill Gates presenting

OK, so we all know that Steve Jobs is orders of magnitude cooler than Bill Gates, and that Jobs’s Apple represents the aesthetic side of computing, while Gates’s Microsoft represents all things corporate. But for the most part, Gates owns presentations. Microsoft’s PowerPoint is all-pervasive in the world of presentations. It’s used in board meetings, conferences, classrooms, to push product and even to entertain. It’s the 800-pound gorilla of presentationdom.

But PowerPoint doesn’t have to be bad. (Read Seth Godin‘s little ebook (pdf) to learn ways to make your presentations more meaningful, or at least a little less dull. And read what Reynolds has to say about zen and the art of presentation. If you get nothing else, get this:

A key tenet of the Zen aesthetic is kanso or simplicity. In the kanso concept beauty, grace, and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission. Says artist, designer and architect, Dr. Koichi Kawana, “Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.” When you examine your visuals, then, can you say that you are getting the maximum impact with a minimum of graphic elements, for example? When you take a look at Jobs’ slides and Gates’ slides, how do they compare for kanso?

Hat tip to Seth Godin for the link.

Communications, marketing, PowerPoint, presentations


Livin’ on a prayer

According to data from the most recent National Survey on Student Engagement, conducted by researchers at Indiana University, students with strong spiritual leanings tend to do better in college than their less spiritual peers. As this report from Inside Higher Ed explains, “students who frequently engage in spirituality-enhancing practices also participate more in a broad cross-section of collegiate activities.”

“The bottom line is that these students are more engaged across the board than average students in range of interesting activities,” says George Kuh, director of the survey as well as the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. “They do a variety of things that are known to be positive contributors to the overall college experience.”

The report continues:

In fact, students who participate frequently in spirituality-enhancing activities tend to exercise more, attend cultural events more often, and are more likely to perform community service. They also report being “somewhat more satisfied” with college and have a more positive view of the out-of-class environment. Researchers offered a broad definition of spirituality, including everything from regular attendance at religious services to private meditation.

college, university, religion, spirituality, higher education

A UC degree: ain’t it (about a hundred) grand?

The University of California — long a model of affordability for colleges and universities worldwide — is getting pricey. Reduced state funding has forced UC to hike tuition to unthinkable sums. We’re talking $100,000 for a college degree.

“We have got to hold the line on tuition,” one state senator told the Associated Press (source: The San Francisco Chronicle). “We are making UC unaffordable.”

The Chronicle further reports that state support for the UC budget is nearly half of what it was 25 years ago, having dropped to 27 percent of the budget, compared with about 50 percent 25 years ago.

education, higher education, college, University