Fidel Castro is notorious for delivering exhaustively long, pedagogic speeches to his captive Cuban masses. But Fidel’s 4 hour speeches can’t hold a candle to San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s 7 1/2 hour (update: recently reduced due to national ridicule to just under 3 hours) state of the city presentation he recently uploaded to YouTube that reinforced the nation’s perception of San Francisco as home of the leftist lunatic fringe.
It’s understandable why Newsom presented his speech to the YouTube netizens instead of a live audience like Fidel does. After all, San Francisco doesn’t have the advantage of available gulags for political dissidents. And believe me, only someone under the threat of imprisonment and possible torture would dare brave the full 7 1/2 hour miasma of PowerPoint horror that Newsom inflicts.
The concept is admirable. Present to a wide audience a summation of the state of the city that is available to any citizen at any time. But the presentation is so poorly designed and executed that the whole effort serves only as a case study in political embarrassment.
San Francisco is just down the road from Cupertino. Couldn’t someone from the mayor’s office have popped on down to crib some notes from Steve Jobs on how to use PowerPoint to support a presentation?
Newsom stands next to a wide screen tv that is rarely in frame, and contains so many bullet points and text that nothing is legible. Like most politicians, he seems to love to hear himself talk, and nothing will stand in the way of his enthralling, bullet-point supported description of composting initiatives in the city’s schools (and no, I’m not making this up).
Newsom’s pedantic, insufferable and interminable approach may work for dictators and leftist mayors, but the rest of the world should view his presentation as a cautionary tale and follow some simple rules to engage, not enrage, the audience:
- use PowerPoint to display only bold, short phrases that introduce or support a topic
- focus on large themes, not minutiae
- tell a story, don’t relate series of facts
- don’t ever forget that our time is valuable. Keep it short.