I was just going through some of my PowerPoint files, looking for one very specific file in which I’ve gathered many of the great, useful graphics (like this) Dion Hinchcliffe has created over the years. As I was searching I came across a program I put together for my mother’s funeral, which will have been eleven years ago this coming March 5.
My mother at about 18 years old. This is one of the pics I used for her funeral program
Maybe I’m just an emotional pushover, but the realization she’s been gone over a decade, that my father has been gone for over thirty years, and lots of people my age are dropping had me feeling pretty melancholy right now. I wept, but I’m not sure why. I don’t generally feel sorry for myself, but I think I was lamenting something we all go through; the loss of our childhood, our innocence, our loved ones.
Actually, the feeling is both bothersome and cathartic. I’ve always felt being in touch with one’s emotions — and giving vent to them on occasion — is both healthy and empowering, but I must confess to feeling a bit guilty expressing them in public like this. Nevertheless, it’s one of the reasons I have this blog. I’ll get over it.
How many incredibly boring presentations have you sat through? How many times have you either missed just about everything that was presented because it was impossible to concentrate or you desperately wanted to get up and leave, only to remain because you didn’t want people to think you were uninterested in the subject or disrespectful of the presenter? As a former employee (now retired) of a large aerospace organization, I can tell you I have struggled mightily to stay awake through many a presentation consisting of literally dozens of bulleted PowerPoint charts being read, word-for-word, by the presenter, usually an Engineer . . . as a class not well-known for being the most exciting of speakers.
There is nothing quite so boring as a presentation where the person standing in front is reading the words you are quite capable of reading yourself, much faster than they can be spoken. As pointed out by both Edward Tufte and Richard Feynman, this kind of presentation is not only boring, but can be quite dangerous when used to convey (or obfuscate) critical information needed to make a life-and-death decision, such as those made with respect to both the Challenger and the Columbia disasters.
Admittedly, most presentations don’t convey life-and-death information, and I’m surely not implying they be given the same weight and import. However, there’s usually a reason, frequently a very good one, a presentation is being given and people are spending a portion of their precious time attending it. In that spirit and, thanks to Gil Yehuda and a Facebook share, I give you: