Brief thoughts on PowerPoint

In many organizations, people use PowerPoint for two different purposes:
  1. As a presentation tool for a speaker
  2. As a word processor where the author intends the recipeient to read the slides at their desk
Whether people should be using PowerPoint as an alternative to Word is another matter.

Much of the bad PowerPoint presentations in the world exist because many users fail to make that distinction. A PowerPoint file intended for reading must be written differently than one intended for use by a speaker. The same slide deck is unlikely to be appropriate for both purposes.

If more authors pay attention to these distinction, PowerPoint may cease to be such a painful experience.


Kathy said...

Powerpoint ceased being a "tool" years ago. I think people only use it because it's assumed if you make a presentation, you need it. They always have too many slides with too much included, and often make it worse by reading everything on it, word for word. I die a little when someone starts out that way and I know I'll be poking my eyes out by the end of it.

There. I feel better now.

Karen Zemek, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

I find that when people use powerpoint for presentations, they usually put way too much information on one slide. This is definitely a case where less is more!

I gave you a blog award on my Karen & Gerard Zemek blog. Here's the link: http://zemeks.blogspot.com/2008/08/thanks-for-brilliant-blog-award-sara.html I enjoy reading your blog because you usually have posts that interest me.

Pamela Kramer said...

Oh goodness I know! They use presentations in college and I sat through many of them. BORING.

Patricia Rockwell said...

I so agree with you on Power Point presentations. Most I have seen were horrible. Power Point users seem to think that the Power Point will do the work for them and they can HIDE from the audience. Wrong! A Power Point presentation should support the speaker--not replace the speaker.

Garden Gnome said...

PowerPoint can be a very effective tool when used properly especially when compared to the older way of getting slides developed and using a slide projector. There's nothing so distracting or frustrating to a speaker as a slide projector jam.

Personally I like using PP and feel I know how to use it effectively. There is so much that can be done with that program that if you put a bit of effort into it like Photoshop it will reward you. On the flip side I've seen some presentations that were just utterly horrible! They were too cutesy or too busy or to stimuli overload or simply just too ick!

LDK in STL said...

well said, Cromely.

Hailey's Beats and Bits said...

my 9 year old is most adept with Powerpoint, but lately she's doing Photoshop already; While my 10 years old uses Flash. I feel so obsolete while still learning to master Powerpoint!

Cromely said...

@kathy: "Clearing" the slide came in to vogue a few years ago -- the idea that you have to read the slide and expand on it became a requirement. It makes little sense to me.

@karen zemek: Exactly. Using it as a tool to enhance the presenter's work can be effective, if there's not too much stuff on there.

@pamela kramer@: Sadly, I wonder how much of that can be blamed on PPT. I sat through way too many boring pre-PPT lectures in college. Bad PPT is little better than having someone read out of the text book or read off their notes. I guess the difference is what the lecturer is looking at while people sleep.

@partricia rockwell: Good point about the fear. The PPT is often a substitution for the presentation.

@garden gnome: Few things make me cringe as much as fancy transitions and animations in PPT.

@hailey's beats and bits: Ah. The geek is strong with them. Good to hear. I'm tempted to learn flash but I'm afraid I will do something like make one of those hideous flash based websites that pollute the internet. There's almost as much bad flash out there as there is bad PPT.

@ldk: I get the sense this is not the last you'll hear me ranting about this.

Thomas said...

I hate seeing annoying cutsy pictures on the slides. I get that a lot in the education field.

Gilberto R.R. said...

I think the main problem are those ugly templates that Microsoft Include in Powerpoint, and maybe the bad use of categorys. For instance, Apple's iWork includes Keynote for presentationas, and Pages as a substitute for Word, but Pages also has other templates like "poster" or "catalog" or "food menu" and many others that suit better for other purposes.