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Challenging the Presentation Paradigm with the 1/1/5 Rule

Death by PowerPointA measure of how bad presentations in academia can be is the sheer number of tips and strategies we’ve suggested on ProfHacker, in a recurring series called Challenging the Presentation Paradigm. One of these techniques I’ve used in my classes for several years is the Pecha Kucha format. With 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide, a Pecha Kucha is, as Jason writes, necessarily “SHORT, INFORMAL, and CREATIVE.”

However, as I’ve found out the hard way, a Pecha Kucha format does not necessarily mean students will avoid text-heavy slides, one of the major causes of DBP (Death By PowerPoint). That’s why I’ve begun implementing what I call the 1/1/5 rule for all student presentations. Here’s how I describe the 1/1/5 rule to my students:

In addition to the time constraint of the Pecha Kucha, your presentation must also follow the 1/1/5 rule. That is, you must have at least one image per slide, you can use each exact image only once, and you should add no more than five words per slide. The formal constraints of this rigid format call for discipline, focus, practice, and paradoxically, creativity.

The 1/1/5 rule is just a small tweak, but it has made all the difference. While student Pecha Kuchas formerly ran the risk of containing too much text, or tempting the presenters to read off the screen instead of talking to the audience, now the presentations are almost certainly guaranteed to be visual aids complementing the talk, rather than overwhelming it.

Have you tried similar techniques in your classrooms? What other ways have you managed to make student presentations more engaging?

(Death by PowerPoint image courtesy of Flickr user alice_c / Creative Commons Licensed)

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