Cool as McCumber

PowerPoint divas

The problem? The wacky pictures pulled from the Internet did nothing to illustrate his points. He had no agenda slide. Nobody knew where he was going. He became a train of thought without a caboose. I still can't remember what he was trying to convey. He came across as trite and unprofessional.

- Animation Nation: At least there is the occasional PowerPoint guru who really knows how to use the medium to its fullest. I was in the audience at a technical session on the latest advances in intrusion detection systems. The woman giving the talk was an obvious expert and probably took a month to build a visually stunning set of slides - each one with moving arrows, fade outs, animated humans, and ghostly scripting that would appear at the exact right moment in the presentation. Computers and little icons would appear and disappear as if by magic.

The problem? The attendees couldn't follow the complex animation, and people started leaving the room before she was able to even define the problem she had solved.

PowerPoint is a valuable tool for professionals. However, always remember to start the planning by asking yourself, "how can I benefit this audience, and which point(s) are key for them to remember?" If you understand that in even in an hour, you may only get to establish one or two key facts with your audience, you may find that less is more.

John McCumber is a security and risk professional, and is the author of "Assessing and Managing Security Risk in IT Systems: A Structured Methodology," from Auerbach Publications. If you have a comment or question for him, please e-mail John at: