Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Stephen Colbert Teaches Us About Effective Presentations

Great lessons for educators can be found in the most unlikely of places. One such example can be found on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, in a recurring segment called "The Word". In "The Word," host Stephen Colbert uses one word or phrase as a jumping off point for his unique editorial commentary.

Now, some might dismiss "The Word" on it's face as partisan punditry. The truthiness, of course, is that "The Word" is the best, most effective PowerPoint presentation ever broadcast. Colbert's rousing speechifying is complimented by what is, in effect, a simple slideshow composed of text, pictures and video clips. Instead of including text that he reads verbatim or overloading the screen with pointless data and unreadable fonts, each slide weaves seamlessly into the message Colbert is trying to send.

Therein lies the example for teachers and students alike. Effective presentations are ones where the slides compliment what a presenter is saying, not overpower it or make it redundant. They are well-paced, quick-witted, and use various media to capture the hearts and minds of their audience. Text is large, easy to read and kept to a minimum. Most importantly, the entire time of the presentation is kept to just a few minutes. If you can't get your point across in that amount of time, perhaps you need to reexamine your central point!

I offer two examples of "The Word" that happen to relate to education. The first word is smarterer:

Secondly, here's Colbert's editorial on standardized testing and NCLB:

Find more examples of "The Word" at, or explore educational PowerPoint resources courtesy of Technology Education Know-How for more ideas.

Use these wisely, America!