Slideshare, and the point of PowerPoint

Slideshare is one of the Things that I was already using, though I hadn’t uploaded any presentations to it. I think the usefulness of Slideshare to libraries is specifically in what it offers to the library staff as part of their professional development, their preparation of their own work and networking, rather than in user-facing activity where I still believe presentations would be best hosted on the library’s website, clearly part of the library’s “brand”.

I’ve been reading other Slideshare blog posts with interest. There’s a general feeling of “meh” about Slideshare, I think. In fact, it makes Miss Crail want to get out the shake’n’vac. Several other people pointed out that PowerPoint presentations are not very edifying without having seen the presentation (often true) plus some associated discussion about the value of PowerPoint at all. I wanted to address some of these points here.

Revelation 23’s makes the point that the majority of these presentations having a sort of institutional home, on the website of the institution or conference or event for which they were created “where [the presentation] was born”. However, this isn’t always the case. Slideshare is useful for in a number of situations, such as:

  • Someone gives a presentation independently of their day job, which has no “institutional home”
  • For presentations given at a conference or meeting, where the host organisation will be very slow to make all the presentations available online, if they do it at all
  • For someone working independently as a consultant or trying to build a professional portfolio of some kind, to provide them a single location to showcase their wares, so to speak. Slideshare works as an additional outlet to “advertise” in this way, as well as their own website. If I find an interesting presentation on Slideshare, I look at the creator’s other presentations there before looking at their linked homepage to find out more.
  • When the “institutional home” of a presentation is on a restricted intranet or other hidden location, Slideshare can be used to share something more widely within the profession, with colleagues from other institutions. For example, I was participating in an e-forum where other Tech Services (cataloguing, mainly) staff were discussing the uses of web 2.0 tools in Tech Services. Becky Yoose, bibliographic systems librarian at Miami University, Ohio, mentioned some of the tools they use in her department – when a few people expressed interest in knowing more, she made a couple of her presentations and handouts (pdf format) available on Slideshare since her departmental intranet was restricted access.

I recently gave some training to cataloguing staff at the UL. I used Slideshare to see what else had been done on these topics, if anything, and to get general ideas of format/length of time needed.  It is very useful to see what has already been done on a topic and as a starting point for my own work.

Some of the presentations I wrote are on the UL intranet, but if I wanted to share them more widely within the Cambridge library world (which doesn’t have access to the UL intranet) or beyond then Slideshare would be a very easy option since I don’t have a website other than this blog. It would be vanity publishing, I admit. However, some of the training I gave was on a very specialised topic – Cataloger’s Toolkit for use with Voyager – and I know from my own searching that there’s only a limited amount of training material freely available online (there is online documentation but that is much more detailed than I needed for my purposes) so there might be people interested.

I am usually using PowerPoint for training in cataloguing or cataloguing-related topics, where I include screenshots, examples, detailed instructions. I do this partly because I always expect the live demo to fail and need to have my PowerPoint as a backup option. However, the style of my presentations is also designed this way so that people who attend the training have something to take away with them that will be of immediate help when they are sitting in front of their own computer trying to do something practical in Voyager or Toolkit. If the presentation has been created with this in mind, PowerPoint can work well even without the presenter’s notes and sometimes without needing to attend the session at all. There are other occasions when I deliberately include very little information on my slides (or don’t use PowerPoint at all) because I want to force people to listen and pay attention. Blaming PowerPoint for boring presentations is missing the point slightly – PowerPoint is just a tool and needs to be wielded by a presenter who knows who their audience is and what they want to achieve. The problem isn’t really PowerPoint, it’s people.

How else do I use Slideshare? I have frequently followed links from people’s blogs or from Twitter which have taken me to Slideshare. I have often viewed presentations from conferences I didn’t attend but was following on Twitter, for example, without having to wait for it to be added to the official conference website (which doesn’t always happen anyway).

I’ve followed Isla’s helpful instructions to embed a presentation I found on Slideshare of a training session I couldn’t attend, since it was help in the US, which hopefully demonstrates that some PowerPoint slides can still impart useful information even without attending the session. I chose this one to embed as the author clearly links to her personal website, gives her contact details and ends with this information:

The content of this presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. For information about what this means, visit the Creative Commons web site.
You are free to copy, distribute, or transmit this presentation for non-commercial use. Please let me know if you will be using it!
I encourage all presenters to distribute their work freely—why keep a good thing to yourself?

Well said, Nanette Donohue.


3 comments so far

  1. Suzan on

    Thanks for the cataloguing slideshare link

  2. Miss Crail on

    Wow – Thank you Celine. Made me realise how blinkered I’d been. Definitely needs a rethink on my part. Shake’n’vac smelled awful anyway

  3. Céline on

    Oh you’re welcome! With hindsight, choosing to embed a 77 slide presentation on the more arcane areas of cataloguing was possibly not the most audience-grabbing of moves…

    Miss Crail, I do agree on the shake’n’vac smell (80s nostalgia never extends to that sort of detail does it?).


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