'PowerPointless' some thoughts on that dirty word

I wanted to dump some thoughts I had around some stuff I saw and heard about the use of what to many is a very dirty word - PowerPoint.

I'l hopefully revisit it in time.

BBC Radio 4 Show - PowerPointless:

This Radio programme about PowerPoint - its history, application and thoughts from both critics and fans was brilliant, especially the comments by one of the UK's most respected brand/business strategists and thinkers Russell Davies.

The BBC blurb said this... 

'With more than 30 million presentations being given around the world every day, PowerPoint has become the single most ubiquitous tool for presenting ideas. Yet it's the software many of us love to hate - vilified for simplifying the complex and complicating the simple.

30 years on from its commercial launch, Ian Sansom asks, 'What's the real point of PowerPoint?' as he embarks on what surely must be a world first - a PowerPoint presentation for the radio.

How do I move this on to the next slide? There we are. Thanks.

Armed only with an auto-content wizard, some zippy graphics and a hefty set of bullet points, Ian ventures forth to assess the true impact of this revolution in communication. He speaks with the software's pioneers, meets some of its notable detractors and asks how PowerPoint has influenced corporate life and spilled out into some improbable areas of our culture.

As he discovers how science-fiction is helping to inform the next generation of presentation technology, Ian asks if PowerPoint has empowered the individual - or if our boardrooms, lecture halls and even our spiritual affairs are to be forever condemned to the fate that has come to be known as 'Death By PowerPoint.'

What do I do now? Press escape? No, I want to bring it back to the start. F6 I think. Where's the remote thingy..?'

Death by PowerPoint

The other week I was invited to an evening of talks arranged by marketing agency Bray Leino for one of their clients - Benenox - who make a herbal remedy that helps you sleep better and therefore wake up more refreshed and creative (!)'

It was one of the most inspiring evenings I've attended for a while as the connect had been curated and presented by the School of Life, who I was aware of but hadn't experienced before tho was already a big fan of the MC and first speaker JP Flintoff.

While the content itself was fascinating, I was in full train spotter mode and really taken by the way every speaker made an effort to engage the audience in an activity and particularly how they used PowerPoint (it may have/could been delivered using any presentation software package as they can all be as boring or brilliant as each other - as Russell Davies says in the Radio 4 programme above, it's what you do with it that counts).

This was best illustrated by the talk by Sarah Stein Lubrano who had placed all the images (no words) on a black background in PowerPoint so that there was no noticeable border and essentially making the whole wall behind her a very flexible canvas.

No not rocket science but very effective and a million miles form a blue gradient fill background with yellow Times New Roman bullets... zzzzzzz.

Lunch some time?

Since I gave up my career in brandland to advocate for creativity in education with STEAM Co. I have supplemented my next to no income with my 'Dirty PowerPoint' masterclasses that tell you and colleagues everything you need to know about PowerPoint, ie the 20% of what it can do, to do the 80% of what you need to do. 

All over a sandwich in a lunch break if you prefer. Or breakfast.

More info here. Do get in touch



Safer Internet Day and the biggest bag of M&Ms you ever dreamed of

Safer Internet Day and the biggest bag of M&Ms you ever dreamed of

The internet has been abuzz with Safer Internet Day #SID2017 which is intended to do what it says on the tin, provide ideas and education around ensuring a safe online experience for youngsters taking in everything from cyber bullying to use of safety filters and of course the elephant in every family living room, screen time management.

Use talk not tech to tame your children's online habits

An old chum and collaborator Alan O'Donahue posted an interesting read By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News entitled 'Use talk not tech to tame your children's online habits'.

It talked about the sensible controls that the author has in place in an attempt to manage screen time/uage with his chidlren:

  • Device specific controls on the internet router to manage use/limit net time (how manay peopel do yo uknow and teachers who sugegst you just pull the plug on hte router when th ekids go to bed - dont they watch BBC iPalyer or ever have to work after bedtime?)
  • Locked down tablets and smartphones
  • Software on PCs to filter out unsuitable content and viruses

He also described how many of these techniques his kids eventually worked round requiring him to revert to the age old approach of educating his children on best practice.

Enter the M&Ms

My answer to that is where the biggest bag of M&Ms comes in. For that is what the internet and all you can eat gaming is to most kids. I personally have never bough a large or small bag of M&Ms on a drive and not eaten the lot in ten minutes and both myself and my kids are well aware of the dangers of sugar and tooth decay. Sorry I don't buy the education only route.

Parent eye views

It all reminded me of the Kidcrafters parenting event I threw together a couple of years ago, at the Royal Institution where I launched STEAM Co.

Just after a wonderful talk by the (then) teenage tech editor of the Sunday Observer Dan Tomlinson and before a similarly killer talk by Google Labs European creative director, Steve Vranakis, we heard from four parents: a sreen free mum, a free screen dad, a Minecraft dad and a child psychologist.

Screen free mum

Free screen dad

Minecraft Dad

Child psychologist

How are you helping your staff

It never ceases to amaze me how little many people know about this subject and the things they can do to help their kids manage their screentime   which is why I put this little lunchtime 80:20 course together. 80% of what  you need to know in 20% of the time - from setting your internet hub so you can use the web and watch online TVwhile the kids can't after bed time, simple screentime management tools and other stuff to look out for.

More info here.


We are @people4art. Are you?

Talkin' 'bout a revolution

A few weeks ago, Darren Henley of the Arts Council visited Sunderland to call for a ‘Creativity Revolution’ in a speech alongside Matt Hancock Digital Economy and Culture Minister who was championing the UK's creative industries.


Back in January, the non-profit social enterprise STEAM Co. I co-founded held an event in Sunderland with the support of the Arts Council to inspire communities of the North East to inspire their children with creativity. 

Since then Barclays, Google and National Grid have supported events organised by the social enterprise I co-founded, STEAM Co. across the UK. 

“Unleashing the power of art and creativity. We're leaving no one behind” 
Ashok Vaswani : CEO, Barclays

    "In creativity I saw light. Creativity is not the monopoly of artists" 
      Lemn Sissay MBE : Poet/Chancellor

STEAM Co. Days have since been held in schools in Newcastle and across the country, from South Tyneside to Cornwall to Shropshire to Manchester. 

Sunderland has a wealth of cultural, industrial and community powered stories and is a lead bidder for UK Cultural Capital 2021. So I was delighted to revisit the city at the invitation of the local community to give 4 talks and workshops in the city’s schools and a wider community meeting Thursday evening at Northern Saints Primary School. 


At an event organised by the Creative Industries Federation, the DCMS digital economy and culture minister Matt Hancock MP celebrated our creative industries and their contribution to the economy. 

UKTI sell the UK to the world under the banner of ‘Creativity is GREAT’ with a poster featuring Sunderland born designer, inventor and STEAM Co. Inspirator Dominic Wilcox.

Yet schools minister Nick Gibb MP recently addressed a schools conference featuring speakers including a leading teacher with 14,000 followers who says ‘creativity is for people with glasses who like to lie”.

Last week Sunderland MP Sharon Hodgson, leader of the Art in schools All Party Parliamentary group, described how, not only are fewer children choosing creative GCSE’s, but also how fewer people are now training to teach creative subjects. 

It’s a downward spiral.


The UK isn’t short of people and organisations who believe in and value creativity but we need to bring it out of the silos of education, trade bodies and institutions. We need one message we can all shout out.


Our message has to be clear and simple and mean something to, and be ownable by, everyone. ‘Creativity’ itself is a mouthful to many and requires a definition. Rightly or wrongly, the arts can have an instant elitist connotation.

‘Art’ is open to many definitions, but one we particularly like is from global business and social change guru Seth Godin: #ArtConnects

    “Art is what we call it when what we do might connect us” 
      Seth Godin

So “What’s your art?”

Whether painting dance or music. Whether football, cookery or woodwork. Social entrepreneurship, innovation or coding. It’s all art, We can all be artists.


A windows sticker in a shop in France recently caught my eye, which simply said ‘I ♥ ART’ which gave us an idea. Our statement. Our campaign. In this consumer co-created open source world we see people creating their own ♥ that captures their art. 

By Friday night we had a thousand logo, created by children, parents, teachers, artists and business people from South Tyneside and printed them on posters and t-shirts.

What's your art?

Do visit www.people4art.org.uk to tell us about your art. They did.


Why I marched on parliament against the EBacc

So far I've dedicated the second half of my life to raising the profile of creativity, particularly in education and how it can inspire children, innovate business and connect communities.

So when an education policy threatens all this from the ground up, by killing creativity and the arts in our schools I couldn't stand by.

And I wasn't the only one.

Read this blog on the background to the EBacc and this milestone which brought creativity onto the UK agenda.

Your Turn : a story of a broken down car and Seth Godin.

My career has taken in butcher's boy, silver service waiter, interactive training, the dawn of interactive multimedia and web, marketing, innovation and education.

One of the most common denominators and inspirational people at various points along the way has been global marketing, education and social change guru Seth Godin. 

Like many big brand and thinker fan boys, I've bought and devoured most of his books but none have such impact on my life as 'Your Turn' which I might not have even read had my car not broken down one New Year's Eve.

Read that story here and see how it brought every thing together for me and many others I was to connect with down the line because Seth generously sent me a couple of boxes of the book to share around.

"I just speak quickly til people say 'yes'"

 I must admit that that headline in The Guardian above a piece about me, made even me cringe, but I said it, I meant it and it's spot on.

I was particularly chuffed that I was in a copy of the paper that had an article on one of my hereos Ricky Tomlinson and included ad for Camp Bestival which provided me with the inspiration to turn my life inside out.

Read the whole article here.