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The problem with presentations is PowerPoint, or is it?

by Tris Hussey on April 9th, 2007

You might have seen this on Lifehacker and other places:

However, tech blogger Leisa Reichelt of Disambiguity came up with a way to give a more human touch to your presentation: the sticky note.

Basically, she create her outline using stickies and photographed them. Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea to give not only a bit more pizazz to your presentation, but it could also potentially connect you to your audience a bit more.
Source: Make those PowerPoint slides less boring with stickies - Lifehacker

Cool idea.  Use pictures of stickes stitch them together.  Of course you have to have good handwriting to pull this off.  I don’t so since I don’t want my presentation to be filled with … umm what does that say? (or worse not being able to read what I wrote!).  I wasn’t going do anything with that post until I saw this post on PresentationZen where David Byrne (yes from the Talking Heads) talking about Powerpoint and presentations in general: 

“When you pick up a pencil you know what you’re getting — you don’t think, ‘I wish this could write in a million colors,’” says Byrne. Here are a few more quotes from the Berkeley article:

“I love not having an unlimited palette. In that sense it’s like a pencil. You don’t expect to have other typefaces or fonts; you have fun with what’s there. Freedom — who needs it?”

In the UC Berkeley article Byrne admits that most PowerPoint presentations are often filled with irrelevant, gaudy, and vacuous graphics that take the place of actual content. But, says Byrne:

“You can’t blame it on PowerPoint. …You see it on the TV news, everything’s filled with graphics and icons — it has the illusion of content but there’s very little being communicated.”

Source: PresentationZen

 Now that makes sense doesn’t it?  I know how a pencil writes and feels.  Sometimes it’s the right tool.  Sometimes I whip out one of my fountain pens (yes I have lots), I know exactly what I’m going to get and how it will look.  Powerpoint’s problem is that is doesn’t put bounds on your creativity, which is great for some things, but presentations I think causes nightmare.

Solution?  Just keep it simple.  One font.  One style.  Simple background (this means something that is easy on the eyes and your audience isn’t trying to guess what the stuff is on it).  Using the recommended colour pallets in Powerpoint is a good thing.  Animations?  Just don’t bother.  Okay sometimes having a point hidden until you want to make it is nice … maybe a new slide instead of something sliding in from the right?

Presentations are about conveying information.  Don’t make your Powerpoint slides a distraction to that goal.


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POSTED IN: PowerPoint, MS Office, Software tips, General work pimps

1 opinion for The problem with presentations is PowerPoint, or is it?

  • Pimp Your Work - Look it isn’t PowerPoint that sucks, it’s how you use it
    Apr 11, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    […] Following on the PowerPoint love/hate fest, is this article I saw on Presentation Zen that hit the mark: I am assuming that what Professor Sweller means is that the way PowerPoint is used should be ditched, not the tool itself. Suggesting we abandon PowerPoint because it’s often (usually?) misused and abused to produce awful presentation visuals is like saying we should dump the idea of 24-hour cable news because so much of it is vacuous rubbish. But whether we’re talking about bad TV or boring presentations, shouldn’t we blame the content producers not the content medium? When people rail against PowerPoint they seem to be saying that PowerPoint is a method, and a flawed method at that. But is PowerPoint itself really a “method”? In a 2004 interview with Cliff Atkinson, Multimedia Learning author Richard Mayer said this: […]

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