April 15, 2007
Don McMillan on PowerPoint
Posted by Gordon Smith

This video is making the rounds, but it deserves a wide audience. Very funny.

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January 22, 2007
Good Powerpoint, Bad Hotel
Posted by Fred Tung

I've become something of a PowerPoint social critic (e.g., here and here).  Here's a good example, a hilariously novel way to register a customer complaint--Yours Is a Very Bad Hotel.  HT to Nancy Rapaport at MoneyLaw, a new favorite blog of mine.  (Also not to be missed in her post is a link to the PowerPoint for the Gettysburg Address).

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July 10, 2006
More on Bad PowerPoint: Advice from a VC
Posted by Fred Tung

I've ranted about bad PowerPoint before.  I just came across Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, sage advice for entrepreneurs pitching their new new thing to VCs.  10 slides max, 20 minutes max, 30-point font minimum.  On using too small a font:

The reason people use a small font is twofold: first, that they don’t know their material well enough; second, they think that more text is more convincing. Total bozosity. Force yourself to use no font smaller than thirty points. I guarantee it will make your presentations better because it requires you to find the most salient points and to know how to explain them well. If “thirty points,” is too dogmatic, the I offer you an algorithm: find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two. That’s your optimal font size.

Incidentally, the banner to Guy's blog contains this pithy definition:

He doesn't mean me, right?

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January 11, 2006
Good PowerPoint
Posted by Gordon Smith

At the AALS Annual Meeting, I saw some horrendous PowerPoint presentations. My main beef: TOO MUCH TEXT!

Stevejobs Guy Kawasaki (whose new blog is great, by the way), reviews Steve Jobs' use of PowerPoint. Notice lesson #1: "Minimal text. Many slides had only one or two words."

As I have noted before, law professors face special challenges here since our lives are about interpreting texts, but we can do better. Much, much better.

Have you seen anyone you admire for their PowerPoint abilities? Two law professors leap to mind: Larry Lessig and Eric Talley.

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November 04, 2005
PowerPoint Observations
Posted by Gordon Smith

Steve Bainbridge is begging to be shot because of the PowerPoint presentations in the first panel of the insolvency conference. (N.B. I was not on the first panel!)

The first panel was an academic panel. Only one practitioner, and he didn't use PowerPoint. The second panel is exclusively practitioners, and there are no PowerPoints.

Perhaps they have learned that no PowerPoint is better than a bad PowerPoint?

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April 22, 2005
Screen Beans
Posted by Gordon Smith

Sinking Someone must still use Screen Beans because they have a functioning commercial website, but their career seems to me to have taken a big dive since the mid-1990s. When was the last time you saw someone use Screen Beans in a PowerPoint presentation? For me it has been ages.

When I first encountered Screen Beans, I thought they offered a nice solution to the problem of representing people in PowerPoint slides. I still think they are much more interesting than most clipart. They are nothing more than elaborate stick figures, but their simplicity was the key to their usefulness. Truth be told, I miss these guys.

So I would be interested in hearing from others ... are Screen Beans still popular in circles outside mine? If not, what happened? For me their decline seemed to correspond with their creators' efforts to make money. When they were free, Screen Beans were all over the place. Once we had to pay, well, perhaps we could get by without them. Or perhaps people just tired of them.

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March 23, 2005
PowerPoint Musings
Posted by Gordon Smith

About a month ago, I posted a blurb in our sideblog, Subsidiary Thoughts, entitled "Rethinking PowerPoint." I included this bit of advice from Seth Godin: "No more than six words on a slide. EVER." Although I think Seth's advice cannot hold for most law teaching -- after all, words are our stock in trade -- I resolved to employ images to better effect in my PowerPoint presentations.

The first opportunity to test my resolve came last week, when I made several presentations at the University of Minnesota's Super CLE. Among them was this presentation of the Disney case (on the "fiduciary duty of good faith") and this presentation of the Martha Stewart case (on director independence). What do you think?

I have some reflections, but I will wait for comments. Also, note that these display much better in IE than Firefox (after all, both IE and PowerPoint are Microsoft products).

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December 23, 2003
In Defense of PowerPoint
Posted by Gordon Smith

I thought I would die laughing when I saw the Gettysburg Address on PowerPoint. Even though I am a PowerPoint afficionado, I enjoy a good satire. But John Naughton, writing in The Guardian, is serious in his disdain for the software: "As an addiction of the white-collar classes, PowerPoint ranks second only in perniciousness to cocaine. Some executives appear to be -- literally -- incapable of public utterance unless they have their bullet-pointed security blanket on a screen behind them." This is, of course, the well-worn complaint that PowerPoint is a "substitute for thought." (Pardon my directness, Mr. Naughton, but your column is a substitute for thought. It contains nothing original on the topic ... besides the link to the Gettysburg Address.) The more that I hear this so-called argument, the more I am inclined to believe that complaints against PowerPoint are a cover for laziness. Most people I have met who grumble about PowerPoint are techo-dinosaurs, and I have the feeling that this is their way of mitigating what otherwise might be a competitive disadvantage. In fairness, I have seen (and made!) many bad PowerPoint presentations, but they are not inherently worse than a "naked" presentation or one that uses the "crutch" of a chalkboard. I am old enough to know that business people did not become bad public speakers because of technology. So enough of the complaints!

(Thanks to Kaimi Wenger for pointing out this story.)

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