Rest In Peace Mr. Overhead - Let's Save Some Trees In Your Honor

power point absurd image

An emblem of tree killing evil. Image credit:Seth Godin (a pdf file download)

While buying school supplies at Staples today I saw a 3M standard model overhead projector on clearance sale, listed for US$21.50. Goodbye Mr. Overhead, I'll miss you. Your departure from every Hilton Grand Ball Room in the USA floods my head with more fond memories than Vermont has wet basements tonight. Like the time I was saved from an hour-long data dump when the presenter marched up to the podium and dropped his 120 transparencies down stage...all over the floor. At the other extreme, I recall a well spoken man with multiple PhD's writing with broken crayons on very old and dirty transparency blanks, drawing his hypothetical curves and charts from memory while barely losing eye contact. (He got a standing ovation.)

There is no technological competition left with Mr Overhead's destined departure - my historic rescue by transparency spilling would no longer possible as things stand - and the floodgates are now wide open to the grotesque magnifying powers of the computer slide show. (You know the brand - his initials are PP.)Environmental dimension to Mr Overhead's departure.
In the presentation, the total wattage of a PC plus a digital projector, I'm going to guess, roughly equals or exceeds that of an overhead projector bulb.

During presentation development, there is electricity consumed at either the Xerox or the PC. With both technologies, the presenter is likely to blow through multiple paper printouts while making edits and getting concurrence from the boss and the PR department and the Law Department.

With either technology, an organizer is likely to ask for "copies of your presentation for the audience". Ironically, the value of having an actual live presenter is so you can hear him riff past the approved slides, Maybe one or two members of the audience will have a few words with him as he's running for a taxi, none of which is going to be on what everyone else will diligently print out back home and pass around to disinterested inter-office mail recipients.

Nicolas Robbio, Untitled (three overhead projectors and photo slides), 2008. Image credit:Flickr, we-make-money-not-art, photo stream

Gratefully, Lloyd reminded me of Seth Godin's decade-old tips on how to use PP to actually get your message across. It is here.

JL's tip.
A PP presentation is nothing more than glorified outline. (If your presentation can't be collapsed into a clear and well structured outline that stands on its own, then you are in really deep doo doo.)

I print out the underlying outline in outline format, usually in 12pt font, and hand that out on maybe a page or at most two for people to take notes on.

If I've done well by the audience, the moderator will almost certainly ask for a copy of "the slides" which I will politely decline to provide. Sending the file later only results in wasted paper and the show is "power pointless" without the value my voice adds. (If it does stand on it's own then there was no reason to have me there and pay for the travel bill.)

Specifically, and to the environmental point, the amount of paper wasted on slide printouts increases arithmetically by the number of people in the receiving audience. Let's say my "show" is 15 slides. I can put the entire outline of the "show" on one piece of paper and the substance of the information is identical to what would be on the 15 single-page "slides."

If my outline gets handed out to 150 people, 150 sheets at max are consumed. Maybe more if I throw in a couple of charts on separate sheets.

On the other hand, if it is printed as a 15-page "slide show" max paper wastage is 15 X 150 = 2,250 sheets, a 150% increase over the outline handout waste.

Clear-cut webinar math.
If trees from a hundred forests fall because of a single Webinar ripling PP's around the world, and participants are multi-tasking, will they hear them?

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