Friday, March 20, 2020

Five Quick and Easy Ways to Use PowerPoint Effectively

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

The Microsoft Office tool PowerPoint has been around for quite a while, and now there are other software as well, but currently, PowerPoint is still the main platform used by most companies for meetings, lectures and presentations.

As someone who has used PowerPoint extensively for years and has seen numerous presentations, I have learned that there are a few key factors that can make or break a successful slideshow.

1. Keep it Big:
Whether the slideshow consists of projecting an image on a computer screen, across the room, or in a large auditorium, it is important to remember that the further back someone is sitting, the harder it is to read smaller text. If you take your chair and move it six feet back from the screen right now, you will probably have trouble reading the writing. This is especially true in a large setting where the image is projected.

While you cannot fit as much as you may want on a slide, that is okay because you are there to present information, and if the text is too small to be read by the entire group, then the slideshow is not effective. Be big, be loud, be “heard.”

The suggested size for a title is 44 pts, and for text, try not to go below 20 pts.

2. Keep it Simple:
The biggest mistake people make when it comes to PowerPoint slides is trying to put too much on a single page. The more text that is put on the page, the denser it is and the harder it is to read. A better approach is to use the slides as “chapter titles” rather than printing all the information. For example, if you are discussing meals, you might have a bullet point that says “Breakfast,” for which you will verbally fill in the information. Then “Lunch,” etc.

One way to handle this is as follows: if you have ten bullet points for example, rather than putting them all on one slide, have five on the first one, and continue it onto a second page.

You should not put all the information on the slide, because you want the people listening to you, not reading what’s behind you. The audience cannot read and listen at the same time. Remember, you can put all that information into the notes section, and then print it as a hand-out at the end.

The best and most effective slideshow I have ever seen was presented by a surgeon and art philosopher named Leonard Schlain (d. 2009) at a conference that consisted of no text except for the title slide. The rest were close-ups of sections of classical paintings, which expressed exactly the points he was making.

3. Keep it Consistent:
Because of its high visual aspect, presenters naturally may want to show some kind of artistic leaning to keep the viewers attention, which is correct. However, it is important to keep much of the document consistent within the presentation. For example, keep the typeface somewhat consistent, rather than switching around from a Serif font to a Sans Serif one either on the slide or even within the presentation. This distracts away from what is being said. It may work somewhat if staying close, such as using Arial for the title and Calibri for the text. They are both Sans Serif, so the eye will accept it easier. However, using, say, Arial (Sans Serif) for the title and Times New Roman (Serif) for the text is dissonant, and will take away from your message.

Getting back to Simple for the moment, I would recommend staying away from Serif fonts generally in a slideshow if you can, and continue with the easier-on-the-eye Sans Serif. Again, you want to make the text easy to read for those in the back of the room.

Consistency can be subtle. For example, I saw a presentation that consisted of twenty-five slides, and nearly all were three bullet points, a bolded subtitle, followed by a colon, and some descriptive text. It was simple and easy. However, on the twenty-third slide only, rather than the subtitle being bold, it was underlined. I talked to members of the audience later, and no one seemed to have noticed it consciously, but I observed that on that particular slide people coughed and chairs squeaked as the audience shifted. They did notice it subconsciously and it caused them to squirm in their seats.

4. Keep it Oral (at first):
One of the most common errors in a presentation is when the moderator merely reads what is on the slide that is being projected. If you are just going to repeat the slide, why are you even there?

As I said earlier, it is more effective to use your slides as emphasis, such as a guide or chapter heads rather than having all the information presented, which can be given out in handouts with the extra text in the Notes section.

An exception to this rule is for quotes, which is part of the larger presentation point being made.

5. Keep the Title Un-orphaned:
Having an “orphan” in a title is common practice, but it is unattractive. An orphan is an old newspaper term for when you have a single word in a title that hangs down onto a second line, as follows:

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your

This is easily fixed by placing the Insertion Point (cursor) where you want the break to be, such as before the word “Rest,” and then holding down the CTRL key and hitting the Enter key. This places what is known as a “soft return,” meaning you are forcing a break in the text, but retaining the information within the paragraph:

Today is the First Day of the
Rest of Your Life

This give the page a more balanced look and will enhance the slide.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Book Review: THE DOORS: No One Here Gets Out Alive [1980]

Text by Ira Seigel / FFanzeen 1980
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2020
Images from the Internet

This book review and article was originally published in FFanzeen, issue 5, dated August/September 1980. It was written by Ira Seigel, as one of his “Inside Looking Out” columns.

While I grew up believing that the Doors were one of the three most overrated bands of the 1960s (including Zep and the Dead), there is a lot of their music that I still find enjoyable; my feeling comes from the sheer obnoxious volume of adoration they received, not the quality of their work. I read No One Here Gets Out Alive when it came out and enjoyed it, despite my general opinion of the band’s (and Morrison’s) standing. Ira is more of a fan of what is now called Classic Rock.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, my two favorite Morrison stories are as follows: first, in an early Kicks fanzine, Melody Patterson (Wrangler Jane of “F-Troop”; d. 2015) told how during the 1960s, she preferred going to see Bobby Fuller over Morrison in the clubs, because they both wore tight pants, and Fuller was – err – fuller. The other is from a 1980s television show called “Good Day New York” in which George Ciccarone interviewed Russ Meyer actress Kitten Natividad. During the later ‘60s, when she was an exotic dancer on the strip, she stated that Morrison was obsessed with her and kept asking her out, but she kept saying no because of his lack of personal hygiene (though other websites say they did date).

As of this republishing, if he had lived Morrison would turn 77 this year. – RBF, 2020

Originally, I intended to talk about a subject near and dear to me – old rock’n’roll records and, specifically, collecting. That’ll be next time around; but now I’ve got something more current and, perhaps, more important.

No One Here Gets Out Alive, the story of Jim Morrison, by Jerry Hopkins and Daniel Sugerman, has recently been published by Warner Books. Unfortunately, it tells very little about Jim that isn’t already common knowledge – his drinking, (self-) destructive antics, and his anger over his image. If anything, it only adds definition and substance as a chronicle. The forward, by Sugerman, expresses this very clearly and also sets the tone of the book.

From a technical viewpoint, it is fairly well-written, with a direct, non-obtrusive style, using straight narrative, remembered dialog, and quotes. This is the most logical and effective way to write a biography. There is only enough personal interpretation by the authors to show their respect – and love – for Morrison.

The strongest point of the book is in its descriptions of those incidents that gave Jim Morrison his notoriety. Miami, New Haven, and his life with Pamela, are all placed in perspective, and given much-needed detail. Obviously, the book is aimed at fans of Morrison and the Doors, and exists primarily for them. There are few surprises here. Is there anyone that doesn’t know that Jim was a fervent believer in the concept of the “poet as visionary,” as put forth by Arthur Rimbaud? (The classic letter in which Rimbaud calls for a disordering of the senses is excerpted here; for the complete text, try the New Directions Books’ translation of Illuminations.) Or that most of his life was devoted to that ideal?

One of the few enlightening sections of the book, “The Bow is Drawn,” deals with Morrison’s childhood and adolescence. Even as a young teenager, the patterns of nihilism and destruction were clearly apparent, as was his (often deliberate) magnetism. Already, he was practicing the arts of manipulation and stage presence. Without actually using the term, Morrison is shown as a natural genius in the art of street theater. His childhood, with a father who was a career naval officer and, as such, forced a large degree of mobility of the family. Morrison’s almost precocious love of philosophy, particularly Nietzsche, is shown to have a crystalizing effect on his later career. Perhaps more than any other part of the book, this informs as to Morrison’s motivations.

Actually, since the early years of the Doors were sparsely documented, the section dealing with that, “The Arrow Flies,” is fairly informative, as opposed to an intellectual one. The birth and growth of the band from second-rate bar group to supergroup is extensively documented, although, of course, it is the most public period described in the book; and, by that token, it would have to be the clearest. It is primarily the usual behind-the-scenes look at a star, which Morrison was, though he was to grow quite displeased with it. This annoyance came out in his monologs to audiences (deliberately inciting riots), in the tone of his lyrics, and in his increasing reliance on alcohol. By Miami, Jim was well on his way to becoming a visionary/poet in the truest Rimbaudian sense.

The last section of the book takes us from Miami to Paris, the final days of the career and life of Morrison. By this time, he was disenchanted with performing, and was concentrating his energies on film and his poetry. The Miami concert, where he was accused of exposing himself (a description of his actions disproves that), was the actual beginning of his and, by association, the Doors’ fall from grace.

It was at this time that Morrison, formerly a symbol – if an evil one – was seen (by the outside media) as an embodiment of evil. Later concerts, which usually required the band to put up a bond in case of an obscene show, found a more refined Morrison confronting audiences who expected to see an image that he had outgrown. His physical condition was at its lowest at the time. He was fat and losing his voice. All of this led him to Paris, where he was planning to rest and work seriously on his poetry. This part of his life gains some detail in the book, possibly the most obscure as he continues his sensory manglings.

Finally, there is his death. The authors have told the most well-known stories about it (heart attack in the bath, OD,, some more bizarre theories (murder), and then the possibility that he might still be alive. While this is a valid idea (Morrison had even referred to similar acts before), it is not the most likely.

The last vision (and perhaps the most powerful) is in death. Jim Morrison was not afraid to die – actually almost looking forward to it. And the end of his life was the final disordering of the senses: stopping them totally. In Paris, Morrison first became a true poet. He had reached the ultimate plateau.
* * *
The book itself is a large volume, with close to 400 pages and a large amount of photographs, and serves as a companion to a library of Doors recordings, and not a substitute. As aforementioned, the book is directed at fans and followers, and would mean little to outsiders. Besides, the best way to know Jim Morrison is through his legacy: the music he made with the Doors and, of courses, his poetry. No One Here Gets Out Alive is the endpoint of the story, and is only faulted by that.