Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Problem with PowerPoint

Courtesy Clarita of Morguefile.com

I've been contemplating doing a series of articles concerning the use of PowerPoint in presentations. I've been the recipient of many PowerPoint presentations at work and at church. Most are underwhelming. But there are a few that are compelling. And I've been wondering why that is.

Before PowerPoint visual aids such as overheads, chalk boards, or white boards acted as adult show-and-tell. Often it was incumbent upon the speaker to make her speech engaging, while the visual aids added something tangibly convincing to her talk. Sometimes there were cases where the speaker may have relied to heavily on the visual aids to do the talking, rather than the construction of the speech itself. And this proved disastrous for the speakers as well as for their audiences. A poorly prepared speech cannot be made up with visual aids.

However, PowerPoint has now made it easier to make this mistake more often, with more ease, and with less effort. Thus, we have a lot more boring speeches to go around. Yes, there are those who make good speeches, and a few who have good speeches with well-done visual aids. But they seem to be in the minority in my opinion.

On the other hand, PowerPoint can be a powerful tool for effective communication—if it is understood for what it can and can not do. Dave Paradi, who wrote the book, Guide to PowerPoint, has done surveys on PowerPoint design and effectiveness in 2003, 2005, and 2007. And what he has found is that a vast majority said that the most annoying thing about PowerPoint presentations is that speakers are poorly prepared to give a presentation, and the focus is more on the slides than the presentation itself. Most of the respondents (62%) have participated in over 100 presentations a year, and a third said that they see "annoying elements in over half of all the presentations they see."

So you see this is a very real problem. But, I want to be part of the solution. I've done some research on good presentation and slide design, and I plan to talk more about it in this blog in upcoming article posts.

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