By Ken Perrott 28/02/2018

We have all sat through boring, and counterproductive, PowerPoint presentations. Boring because the presenter breaks all the rule relevant to the preparation of visual displays. And counterproductive because, in the end, the audience does not remember any of the information the presenter attempts to convey.

David JP Phillips gives some relevant advice on PowerPoint preparation in the video above and similar advice is available online.  All this advice is very helpful for anyone preparing a presentation – although constant reminders of the points and frequent practice or experience are needed to take it on board. The PowerPoint programme seems to tempt even the best presenter to make fundamental mistakes which can reduce the effectiveness of their visual material.

Learning from bad examples

Examples of bad PowerPoint presentations are ubiquitous – but I urge readers to critically consider this recent example. The PowerPoint presentation the anti-fluoride campaigner, Paul Connett, prepared for his recent presentation to a meeting in the NZ Parliament buildings. Fluoride Free NZ (FFNZ) has provided a link to Connett’s presentation – Prof Paul Connett Power Point Presentation to Parliament 22nd Feb 2018.

It has 155 slides for presentation with another 24 extra slides to be held in reserve if he had time. Just the sheer number of slides, let alone the extreme detail on individual slides, violates a basic presentation rule to start with.

Well, I say “prepared” but the recent Fluoride Free NZ newsletter describes it as “The Power Point presentation that Prof Connett showed” to the MPs meeting. I find that hard to believe as only three MPs turned up to the meeting. In such situations, a reasonable person gives up on a detailed presentation and resorts to having a chat with the people who did turn up.

An example of what not to do in a PowerPoint presentation – source  Prof Paul Connett Power Point Presentation to Parliament 22nd Feb 2018

I urge interested readers to download it and have a look. Critique it from the point of view of the advice given by David JP Phillips above. It really is a bad presentation and I don’t believe any objective person could have taken anything meaningful from it. Treat this as a learning exercise.

Mind you, these presentations are usually simply “singing to the choir” – presented to true believers. All indications are that the three MPs who attended that meeting can be described that way. Other MPs were probably well aware that Connett’s presentations given on his recent speaking tour had no relevance to their work – and probably most were aware of his bias and unreliability as a source of scientific information, anyway.

Second reading of fluoridation bill

Parliament will shortly undertake the second reading of the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill. It is currently 15th on the order paper.  This bill does not deal with the science of fluoridation – parliament wisely leaves that to the experts who can advise them when necessary. The bill simply concerns the procedure for decision-making – specifically suggesting transferring the decision from councils to District Health Boards. The Parliamentary Health Committee has already consulted widely on this – and FFNZ and Paul Connett have had every opportunity to present their views. In fact, Paul Connett and other opponents of fluoridation gerrymandered the system to get much longer presentation times than other submitters. I guess they have plenty of experience of making submissions and know all the tricks.


Here I am simply treating Paul Connett’s PowerPoint presentation as an example of how not to use PowerPoint. Later I will probably return to his presentation and deal with specific areas where he misrepresents the science.

An example of what not to do in a PowerPoint presentation – source  Prof Paul Connett Power Point Presentation to Parliament 22nd Feb 2018

Image: Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

0 Responses to “Opinion: Anti-fluoride activist commits “Death by PowerPoint””

  • Ken, thanks for sharing this presentation. The more widely spread this presentation is the better. Appreciate it.

  • How did it go at Parliament last week Kane? I heard only two MPs turned up! Oh well, Paul does love summer in New Zealand so not a total waste of time!

    • It went very well Peter. Paul had the chance to expose the Royal Society and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor so always a good day when that happens. Did you get the chance to see the Jack Tame interview on Breakfast or the Maori TV piece? This was all on the top of full houses throughout New Zealand.

      Re the powerpoint, Ken doesn’t realise but Prof Connett targeted the main points in the presentation so his critique is much like your interpretation of the fluoride science – virtually worthless.

      • Let’s see what happens with the legislation, but with Labour and National on the same page I expect it will easily pass and before long we’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.

        • Peter,
          The Bashash study found a correlation to children exposed in utero, to the same level of fluoride pregnant New Zealand women are exposed to, and a significant lowering of IQ. This study looked at the fluoride in the urine of the pregnant women. Therefore, if a multi-million dollar study, carried out by top US Researchers, published in a US Government peer reviewed journal, has found fluoride at the same levels we are exposed to, correlates to a loss of IQ in children, does not give you pause to thought, then what will?
          This is a serious question. How much evidence do you need to convince you that the Precautionary Principle should be invoked? No need to quote WHO or any other organisation as no one else has published a study that refutes this.

          • Mary, the Bashash study found a statistically significant correlation between maternal urinary F and child IQ (or a similar measure). But that association could explain only 3% of the variance IQ. Even Paul Connett acknowledges this now.

            A very poor correlation like this usually means that the real risk-modifying factors have not been included in the statistical analysis. That is certainly not sufficient evidence to abandon community water fluoridation as you suggest.

            An example I have written about is the ADHD study of Malin & Till – they found an association of ADHD prevalence with fluodiation that explained 22 – 30% of the ADHD variance. Far more than the Bashash study. Yet when other risk-modifying factors were included that association with fluoridation disappeared completely. I published that critique here:

            Perrott, K. W. (2017). Fluoridation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – a critique of Malin and Till ( 2015 ). Br Dent J.

            Another reason the Bashish study has little relevance is that Mexico is a country with regions of endemic fluorosis and does not have water fluoridation – quite different to New Zealand. (That is why I am rather amazed that no measure of maternal or child fluorosis was included in the study as this has been linked with cognitive deficits elsewhere.)

            You assert about the Bashish study that “no one else has published a study that refutes this.” I agree someone should refute it, or at least critique it. But that takes time. My critique of Malin & Till appeared more than 2 years after their paper. My critique of Hirzy at al., is still being peer-reviewed by the journal.

            I realise that as a political anti-fluoride activist you will not look at the Bsashash study objectively. But the misrepresentation you and your organisation have indulged in does nothing for your credibility. Nor for Paul Connett’s as basing his assertion that fluoridation should be immediately stopped worldwide on a single study with such poor results. The authors of this study do not make this claim – neither should he.

        • Yeah, lets see what happens Peter. I do find it funny that you think that if the legislation passes you think it will be the end of it all. There is new research coming out all the time. Gluckman and Skegg really put their foot in it by saying that 7 IQ points was not significant.

      • Kane, I am also targeting the main points in Paul’s presentation and exposing their flaws. If you think I misrepresent him in any way or that my critiques are wrong then please comment providing your reasons, not personal abuse.

        I have pretty thoroughly covered his misrepresentation of the Bashash study – will get on to other aspects next week.

        It is clear form Pauls comment in his presentation that he is reading my articles – even if his responses are weak.