It always warms my heart a little when separate spheres of my life bump into each other. And my webcomic-reading, cartoon-drawing sphere just nudged my public-speaking sphere in the latest installment of John Allison’s webcomic Bad Machinery.
This guy (the dad of one of Bad Machinery‘s main characters, a circle of kids who solve mysteries) has to con a room full of people into believing a cock-and-bull story (rather than the truth, which is that his son helped to save the city from a walnut-shaped hope-eating monster). His allies: a 287-slide PowerPoint deck and a thermostat.
The sad truth, of course, is that he isn’t the first to deploy this strategy. Dense, impenetrable thickets of text; charts and graphs whose meaning seems to reverse if you so much as shift in your chair – these are proven methods of failing to communicate while appearing to communicate.
A stifling, unventilated room… well, that’s just icing on the cake. (Melted icing, if it’s been in that room for any time at all.)
I’ve sat through presentations where it dawned on me at the 10-minute mark that the speaker was trying to snow me. And then sometimes, at the 20-minute mark, I’d realize they were also fooling themselves. Bad slides can help provide cover for sloppy, muddled or faulty thinking – from the speaker as well as the audience.