Tech Wreck

We are inundated with technologies designed to more effectively communicate. Some have caused users to defectively communicate. Misuse yields communications breakdown or even worse – death by PowerPoint®. With 400 Million Copies of Microsoft Office® and millions of PowerPoint® Presentations every day, one commentator, Dave Paradi surveyed and found several annoying elements in the bane of boardroom and courtroom technologies, PowerPoint®. Lest you not be familiar with potential side effects of poorly executed digital slideshow software, be assured watching slides from industrial safety filmstrips is more bearable than the painful boredom from this assassin of effective messaging from Microsoft®.

The survey found that speakers reading slides, flying text across the screen, and annoying use of sounds were some reasons for disdain for the technology. To that list add the users’ tech timeouts when the software or the hardware fails to display the desired show. With prices tumbling on hardware, including cheap projectors and notebook computers, expect the visual delirium to continue until audiences stand up and complain, walk out, or fall asleep during these moments of mediocrity.

Combining the laser pointer with the video projector can exponentially increase the risk of midday narcolepsy in the jury box or the seminar room. Actually, since the searing red dot of the laser pointer resembles the laser sight on the SWAT team’s M-16, some might claim it to be a useful device for waking up bored audience members or jurors. Jurors know that labels on laser devices warn of eye damage. Use of the powered pointer might actually keep them on the edge of their seats protecting themselves from blindness and more importantly not hearing a word said.

We revel in new technologies but hope their use will help, not distract and bore the audience. To that end, make sure that use of presentation technology serves and does not supplant. Evaluate each tool and ask a few simple questions: Does this technology work? Do you know how to work it? Is the technology really necessary to convey the message? Does it distract from the message? Is the technology persuasive? New technologies will emerge. Each must be reviewed by asking these questions.

In a culture where computer-generated scenes can appear real, just because it was on the television or the big screen projector doesn’t necessarily mean that the audience is convinced that either a droid army saved the universe; or that your side of the case should prevail.

Authors: W.F. “Casey” Ebsary, Jr., and Jodi Ann Baudean, Master of Science in Civil Engineering