Throughout last week, I’ve been investigating on open source whiteboards. During this, I happened to do a lot of reading on presentations and happened to stumble upon the concept of death by PowerPoint. After a brief hunt, I was able to observe the amount of hue and cry made out of this issue (which I don’t blame). I was also able to observe a good number of my friends (online and offline), squirm at the mere mention of the word “PowerPoint”. We have seen and experienced the “how” of death by PowerPoint through our numerous bad experiences with terrible presentations. It’s high time we examine the “Why” of this issue.
In my opinion, the fault lies entirely with the presenter and not with the software. Some people have the notion that anything created with Flash, or some other rapid elearning tool, can be extremely engaging. Although I appreciate the capabilities of these tools, I feel that the potential of PowerPoint is greatly understimated. Even the most advanced software can be used to create a miserable presentation. Hence it is entirely in the hands of the creator. We should hence look to correct our approach to the software. The software is a mere tool which gives us what we give it. If we feed it with nonsense, that’s precisely what we’ll get out of it.
This problem has another serious dimension when it comes to developing content in PowerPoint. Many teachers I’ve encountered favor the “traditional” approach to PowerPoint. When I asked them the reason for such an approach, one of them replied: “You have the boxes in PowerPoint, I just fill them up with pictures and text.” Basically, I don’t understand the logic behind calling this the “traditional approach.” Rather than calling it traditional, it would be more appropriate to call it the “lazy approach.”
Another aspect that kills a PowerPoint presentation is the length. During my college days, I had the misfortune of attending a guest lecture by a doctor from a leading hospital in Chennai. His presentation was 165 slides long with 90% of it being bulleted text (about 10-12 points a slide)! The presentation (I would rather call it reading and skipping) went on for about a couple of hours and at the end of it, none of us had the clue of what hit us in those 120 minutes!
The concept of death by PowerPoint, in my opinion, can be zeroed down to two aspects:
- Presenter’s attitude
Presenters, more importantly teachers, must aspire to be more creative when it comes to developing content in PowerPoint. Before going on with a presentation, take a couple of minutes to think about the worst presentations which you have experienced and compare your creation with that.
A presentation by Karl Kapp, which can be seen here, has some excellent ideas for creating more engaging and useful content with PowerPoint.
PowerPoint slides are visual aids for the learners and not for the presenter!
Do you agree/disagree or have more points to add to what I’ve said, do leave your comment for this post.
Here is another interesting video on what not to do with PowerPoint: