Presentation Pitfalls: The Star Wars Syndrome

Today I was almost blinded during a presentation. Not by the remarkable beauty of the presenter or some elegant experimental design. No, I nearly lost my eyesight because the laser pointer was directed straight at my precious pupils.

Firstly, I don’t like the use of laser pointers during presentations. The (usually) red dot can be quite distracting while leading the audience through a cluttered powerpoint slide. I prefer to let the slides speak for themselves. The audience will find its way.

Also, the red dot can be a great indicator of the presenter’s stress levels. Trying to point at a figure with shaking and sweaty hands can result in an uncontrollably jumping red speck. Cats would love it. If you would still like to use a laser pointer while being at the verge of a nervous breakdown, just use your other hand to stabilize the hand holding the pointer.

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The presenter of today’s presentation was not nervous at all. He spoke fluently and explained his results nicely. He did, however, suffer from another laser pointer problem, namely the Star Wars Syndrome. After pointing at a figure or keyword on his slides, he forgot to let go of the button controlling the laser. As he continued talking and enthusiastically waved his arms, a small red dot bounced around the walls and ceiling. And occasionally threatened the eyesight of unsuspecting audience members. Again, cats would love it.

The solution to the Star Wars Syndrome is quite straightforward. Let go of the damn button! You don’t see Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader swinging their lightsabers around willy-nilly. They use it wisely. Presenters should do the same with their laser pointers. Please take this advice to heart and may the Force be with you!

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