The Present and the Future

On Wednesday, when Ejike, eighteen years old, woke, he weighed his young life against that of others. Disappointed, he pushed aside a book he was supposed to read, so it almost fell off the circular table next to his bed. He would have preferred the book to fall off the table, and it pained him that it did not.

Irritated by the stubborn book, Ejike found a bump on his right leg, where a mosquito had chewed him last night, and he scratched the rash until a little bit of blood stained his fingers. Satisfied with the scratch, he hummed under his breath, “Could this day please pass.” When the day didn’t disappear, he began to think of Thursday and the days to come.

“The days to come hold the key to my future,” he said to himself in a loud, forceful voice, as if he were arguing with another person somewhere in the room. Not that Ejike did not like Wednesday or his books. He did. The problem was that both Wednesday and the book represented the present moment, with all its murky routine processes, which Ejike, like so many people, did not want to deal with. Why bother with today when tomorrow holds allure and fascination?

Today, the young man had nothing; but when tomorrow came he was sure he would have something, if not everything his young heart desired. Ejike thought about the great future that lay ahead in the coming days and months and even years. In that mindset he saw himself plucking a mango from a tree whose seed he had not planted. He also saw himself holding a child whose mother he had not yet married. Toadies surrounded him and sang hymns of achievements yet to be gained. Far beyond, like dazzling stars in the sky, the thought of what tomorrow would bring held Ejike with irresistible charm and magnetism. Who wouldn’t want to extend their hands and grab the bright future, rather than bother with the everyday rigors of the present day? He looked at the book again, thumbed through some white pages, and shut it down for good.

Before you blame Ejike, please understand that he is not alone. Like Ejike, a lot of people suffer from “the nose and the eye problem.” Because the nose is very close to the eyes, the latter cannot see the former, unless the eyes deliberately search for the nose. Similarly, the allure of tomorrow prevents people from noticing the passing day, or the present moment.

There might be an evolutionary component to the tendency of people to look outward into the far distant future rather than inwardly, at the moment of today. In the primitive stage of man’s existence, food was probably scarce and men most likely had to make long-term plans, such as hoarding food in order to prepare for “rainy” days when there would be nothing to eat. This ancestral practice of continually thinking of tomorrow and days to come has rubbed off on today’s man and woman, preventing them from focusing on the present day.

Do not be under any illusion: living for the present is not easy to do. We are always torn between the present and the future. Our habit of trying to reach for the moon makes it hard to live for the present. However, in going for the future, we lose consciousness of the present, which is the foundation for the future.

In teaching his disciples how to pray (the Lord’s Prayer), Jesus counseled them to ask for “today, our daily bread.” It could be interpreted that the idea of focusing on tomorrow and the future, instead of focusing on the day and the present, was a common behavior during the time of Jesus.

In conclusion, this article is not to say that we should not plan for tomorrow. We should. The point made is that we should not make tomorrow the very center of our existence. Patience, practice, and dedication are the tools needed to maximize the gift present in today’s moment.

Should You Give Handouts At Presentations?

You get a huge pile of paper handouts and browse through them. Suddenly you realise that the presentation has ended and you didn’t actually pay attention to what the presenter was saying. Is this familiar?

Should you give handouts during a presentation or not – this is a very important question.

Yes and no. It depends, of course on the nature of the presentation. If you are going to make a technical, scientific or factual presentation with much details handouts help the reader assimilate facts. However, if you are making a presentation with much emotional appeal handouts could be counterproductive as there is a risk that the audience members are immersed in the handout and not paying enough attention to the presenter. National and organizational culture plays a great role in the success of the presentation. Brits, Americans or Italians for example appreciate interactive presentations with emotional appeal but the Finns and the Japanese feel comfortable with restrained fact based presentations where they can take notes. There are great variations also among professions. People in marketing and in the creative professions wouldn’t always like to sit quietly and scribble notes but accountants or lawyers might be more inclined to take notes.

You can distribute handouts before, during or after your presentation. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three so you must consider what you hope to accomplish with the information provided in the handouts.

If there is material in your presentation that cannot be visually displayed on the screen but that is important to follow while you speak, distribute the handouts before you begin speaking. If possible, have them ready for each person to take as they enter the room. This will allow them to read the information before you begin speaking. People who are reading are not listening with attention. There is another advantage in distributing handouts before the presentation. It allows listeners to make notes directly on the handouts. Remember that taking notes is the choice method of learning for many people. Distributing handouts during your presentation is challenging. Pass them out quickly and make sure they are relevant to the point you are discussing. No matter how quickly they are distributed, the audience will be distracted and you might lose some of their attention. This is the least favorable time to distribute materials, but occasionally it is the only appropriate time to do so. Remember that you will have to recapture your audience’s attention and get yourself back on track.

If you decide to distribute the printed materials after your presentation, let your audience know during your presentation. Tell them what information is covered in the handouts, which will encourage them to listen instead of taking unnecessary notes.

Here are some basic guidelines for creating effective handouts that help the audience instead of distracting or misleading them.

Pay careful attention to the appearance of the handouts.

  • Print them on clean white paper.
  • Use a readable, ordinary font like Times or Courier. Don’t vary fonts but make the text as uniform as possible.
  • Don’t cram too much into each page, and don’t leave gaping blank spots.
  • Make the handout clear and easy to navigate.
  • The handout order should be the same as the presentation order. Don’t make audience members flip back and forth between pages.
  • Double-sided handouts are highly recommended (they save paper and there’s less to carry).
  • Always staple multipage handouts, preferably only once, in the upper left corner.
  • Include page numbers.

Printed handouts are most effective if they contain the following elements.

  • Title section

At the top of page 1 you should have the following information, title of presentation, your name, your contact information e.g., e-mail address. You can also include the presentation location and date.

  • Body

Structure the body using headings or if your presentation is primarily data-driven, you can simply allow readers to follow along using the numbers.

  • Tables

Keep their design simple. Simple statistics may be best presented in a table, but often a graphic is better for this purpose. All tables should have clear and informative captions.

  • Figures

Figures include charts and graphics. If you have graphics, make sure they’re clearly visible on the handout. Like tables, figures should also have informative captions.

  • References

List only the references mentioned in the presentation (orally or on the handout). These are usually no more than five or ten for a presentation.

Microsoft PowerPoint or similar presentation software such as Apple Keynote have built in options for creating handouts from the slides that you are going to use during your presentation.

PowerPoint handouts

By default, PowerPoint offers choices to include 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 slide thumbnails per Handout page – some layouts, such as the one for 3 thumbnails also provide some space next to the thumbnail for notes to be written/printed. If you put too many slide thumbnails on one page some text or figures might be very difficult to read.

Other options than printed handouts

Printing Handouts is not always the only solution – especially if you need to email it to someone. In such a case, one can output Handouts to a Portable Document Format (PDF) file.

In conclusion you have to consider carefully what you aim to achieve by giving out the handouts. Then follow the guidelines given above to produce and distribute clear handouts, which help the audience absorb your message rather than distract them.

Enjoy your presentations!

Debt Negotiation in Comparison to Debt Relief

There are many different types of people today in the situation of trying to pay off their debts and keep their heads above water and I want to explain two of the ways that people are using to relieve their debt burden which are Debt negotiation and debt relief. There are plenty of alternatives that are available to you in the situation so there is no need for you to start panic. Panicking is not going to do you any good. You are better off keeping calm and looking into the alternatives. Here is a brief synopsis of two of the available options which are debt negotiation and debt relief.

In the first option you will contact your lender and try to negotiate your debts to a more manageable level. This can be done either by yourself or by debt negotiations company representing you. You are trying to negotiate terms which will be more suitable to your circumstances at present. The banks or lenders are always going to want you to continue paying interest. Your primary aim is to not only the lower the amount of payments you are making but make sure that the money you are giving to the lenders is coming off the principal. The second purpose of the negotiation is to pay back less than what you originally borrowed. Either way you are looking for a situation where you are making things better for yourself. You can do the debt negotiations yourself or you can pass the task over to someone who is more qualified.