Day: April 1, 2017

Pfft PPT

Creating PPT presentations is on my mind. (I don’t use PPTs in class, so this is not about lectures with PPTs.)

Recently, I have witnessed a midcareer/senior academic who should be at the top of their game (mid-to-late 50s, lots of accolades on the CV) deliver an abysmally bad talk during a seminar in the context of possibly bringing this person into a leadership position at our institution. I cannot describe just how bad the presentation was; it was embarrassing to watch. It was so bad that those who advocated for interviewing this person should (and do) feel very ashamed of themselves. And all the students in the audience will now lose six months of training on how to create presentations, because they will rightly ask, “If this senior person can do it, why can’t I?” All the figures looked like $hit; when my first-year graduate students make figures like these, they get a stern talking-to and repeated instructions on what not to do. Figures need to have axis labels and legible numbers on axes. When you have 5 scattered points on  graph (sans error bars, mind you), that doesn’t mean you should draw a freakin’ wiggly B-spline through all of them and call it an experimental curve. Your figures should not be falling off the goddamn slide like it’s the edge of a cliff. Do not show slide after slide of awful-looking experimental plots, taking us down the rabbit hole of your thought process, without actually ever telling us why any of us should give a $hit. People left the talk confused and irritated. There is no way this person is fit for a leadership position when they cannot make a PPT presentation. (Or maybe they just didn’t want the job at all and were self-sabotaging. Seriously, it was baaaaaawd.)

In unrelated news, there is this conference I am going to for the first time; it has a strong industrial presence. They have already annoyed me with a mandatory paper and the need to have it checked by my “industrial sponsor.” Now they want a presentation uploaded in advance. Today I find that they have a freakin’ template they want us to use, and the stupid template contains a mandatory stupid purpose slide (WTF is that?) and a mandatory stupid outline slide which serves no purpose (you know, like the stupid purpose slide) if it’s completely generic, like what these people want. Also, they specify font types and sizes and even allowed colors!

Then again, when  senior people give mind-blowingly awful presentations, maybe detailed templates created by anally retentive professional conference organizers are are exactly what we all need.