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05/18/2018

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powerpoint

This might belong in its own post, but can you say more about what makes Powerpoint work well for a job talk? In particular, have you ever seen them done successfully for candidates in the history of philosophy? I find history talks almost impossible to follow if I can't read the texts at my own pace on a handout.

Michel

I've seen lots of perfectly good PowerPoint talks in the history of philosophy, although none were job talks (all the history job talks I've seen were done with a handout, but they were quite some time ago). FWIW, I have a very hard time following talks that are just read aloud, especially history talks.

To my mind, the key to doing it well is to think of the slides as the items on your handout. So, you want to follow the usual guidelines:

1.) Don't cram stuff onto slides (one point per slide is a good guideline).
2.) Don't have too many slides (less is almost always more--I budget 3 slides for ten-minute talks, 6 for 20, and 15-20 for 60, not counting the opener with the title or any additional slides I need to achieve certain effects).
3.) Don't use lots of effects and don't use many different effects. Prezi tends to be really bad on this score.
4.) Use the slides to signpost for the audience. (So, e.g., introduce a point/argument you want to make on one slide, then use the next slide or two to present the evidence, then move on to the next point and repeat; use a slide at a critical juncture to summarize the arguments/results so far, etc.)
6.) Don't rush through your slides.
7.) If you've got any information that lends itself to a visual presentation--pictures, data, diagrams, a comparison chart, etc.--then put those to work for you.
8.) In the Q&A, don't flip through the slides. It triggers headaches, migraines, and nausea for some people, and it just doesn't look great. Use your slider to find the slide you want, then select it.Better yet, master the keyboard shortcuts.

If you've got a lot of quotes, it might be useful to give the audience a handout that contains them all, so that they can refer back to a quote at will (which they can't do if they're only on your slides and you haven't made the slideshow otherwise available to them). But if you're also giving a PowerPoint presentation, then I'd suggest having all those quotes on your slides, and just making the handout available for people to refer back to once you've moved on.

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