Presentation sustainability

I will write more extensively about Luminous Green this week and what it feels like to be in a room full of artists, advertisers and cultural types talking about sustainability but for now i’ll concentrate on a smaller anecdote around the event that links nicely to the recent conversations about the use Powerpoint.

In order to make the event more sustainable, the speakers were asked to reduce their reliance on technology ( projector and therefore powerpoint) and several of them found this extremely demanding. Others requested to present in powerpoint anyway as they couldn’t possibly fathom not using their presentation (one of which was from the world of advertising of course). This resulted in weaker presentations as the speakers came unprepared for image-less descriptions of their projects and I found that they were struggling to perhaps mentally remember what their slides said.

This then poses the question: is that intellectually sustainable? If the content that you might have been exposed to relies on the speaker being able to be prompted by some sort of tool, this I suppose says a lot about speaker’s independence. As a member of the audience, you don’t have to prepare, you’re a white sheet of paper that someone either artistically writes on or awkwardly scribbles on with their hand in a cast.

Had the speakers been told in advance of this restriction, I think they probably would have absorbed their talk very differently, brought cue cards and orated like a priest in a church, or politicians did before technology’s presence, just like speakers used to when people just read books. Think Gandhi (who was referenced several times times during the event) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I think our reliance on Powerpoint has ultimately made us poorer speakers and we handhold our audience much more than it needs to. Inspiration doesn’t come served on slides.

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.


  1. My dad used to flunk students who used powerpoint for their presentations. He’s not teaching anymore and i don’t think he would have gotten away with it anymore today.

  2. If presentation sustainability includes the audience’s retention of the presentation’s contents, then media richness contributes to that aspect of sustainability. Research indicates, that retention of spoken words increases by 32% if supported by reading text; by 46% if supported by reading text and illustrating graphics; and by 91% if supported by illustrating graphics.

    Spending an additional fractional amount of energy to project PowerPoints could just have made more worthwhile the energy already consumed by getting the presenters and audience together for this event (by up to 91% if the presenters know enough about presentation material).

    I think the organizers’ reasoning is further evidence that we indeed need to make sustainability intellectually sustainable by thinking beyond what might look like a good feel-good idea. Intellectual penetration of what sustainability means is still in progress and it may take us some more time to become more aware of more of the unintended consequences…

  3. According to the research that I ref. to ” the research shows the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the same time”.

    yes I agree about the last minute decision to be sustainable about the presentation style, especially since the projector and screen were already there. However I think it beautifully highlighted our dependance on a visual and text based backup to make a point.

    Yes sustainability is something you live, not something you add on at the last minute.

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