Are you reading or presenting?

Story time. I remember those days. Just before nap time, Mrs. Johnson would pull out a book and start reading to us. She would then display the text and accompanying pictures.



Over the years, I became more interested in reading to myself as opposed to having someone read to me. At this point, I cannot stand hearing people read to me. I might blame students for this. Students, even when fluent, are not necessarily the most fluid of readers. That makes listening to them a bit less enjoyable.

It is perhaps because of this dislike for having students read to me that I first noticed how often my fellow staff members read to me. When another staff member stands in front of our staff and begins reading directly from the slideshow, I have to wonder at the purpose. My thinking runs roughly like this:

1. Why is this person reading to me? I can read just fine myself. What am I, a child?

2. Does this person believe me to be illiterate? Did I give them cause to believe that I am illiterate?

3. If everything I need to know is on the slide (why else would the presenter be reading to me), why bother presenting like this? What a waste of time. I could have read the whole thing ten times faster in my own head and not been as bored.

4. Why is the presenter turned away from me? Oh… must be because the presenter doesn’t really know the material. A bit of practice might have helped.

I do have a theory. The reason why we read from slideshows is because there is so much text on the screen, we just cannot help ourselves. Reading is safe. Reading leaves our brain free to think about other things.

The cure?

  • Get rid of all of that junk.
  • Short, simple bullet points.
  • Note cards or some other device for staying on track.

My favorite cure for reading off of a slideshow is to eliminate as much of the text on the slide as possible and then go a little further. Remember that YOU are the presentation, not the visual aid. More on that later.

Are you a reader or a presenter? If you are really burning and yearning to read to people, volunteer in an old folks’ home or a public library. Those of us who can read would rather get your presentation as an email. Alternatively, you can do what we all wanted you to do in the first place: let the visual aid be an aid and be the presentation yourself.



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