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More Research Suggests Banning PowerPoint-Style Slides

Published April 5th, 2007
Research points the finger at PowerPoint - Technology - It's only been---what---20 years or so since esteemed information-presentation guru Edward Tufte began his campaign to rid the world's meeting halls of PowerPoint slides. So far, besides myself, I've never encountered a soul who took that advice seriously. Blogger/scientist Les Posen has been hammering the blogosphere with the same message for awhile now (in fact, he has a post on this subject on his home page today), and I've chimed in with a few "Amens!" now and again, but nothing has changed.

Even well-meaning, intelligent colleagues of mine who have nothing but disdain for PowerPoint still dutifully prepare their bullet points in PowerPoint whenever giving a presentation. Me, my first act was to just use HTML and a web browser. This was back in the mid-1990's, and I used nothing but HTML (including dynamic HTML, Netscape-style) until Apple released Keynote a few years back. Since then, I've been using Keynote and QuickTime movies.

So it's gratifying to see yet another study pointing out that PowerPoint slides are not only a lazy way to give presentations, they're bad for your audience. Nothing could be more boring (or laughable, if you're from Mars) than watching somebody read along with the bullet points on the screen, trying to make it seem as if they aren't just reading them. Meanwhile, the audience sits with its eyes glued to their printouts, which have the exact same information in the exact same form. No wonder so many people fall asleep in meetings!

I wholeheartedly concur with author John Sweller's conclusions, and hope whoever reads this or any other missives on the subject will step back and think about doing something different next time you step up to a podium:

"The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster... It should be ditched."

Seriously, if you're a Mac user, get Keynote. It's not just hyperbole to say Keynote is everything PowerPoint should have been. Get one or two of the amazing templates that are available from Apple or third parties, and you'll rediscover the joy of making a truly great presentation slideshow again. Save the bullets for your note cards... use the presentation to show the audience something that actually illuminates what you're trying to say. If you don't believe me or Posen, get a copy of Tufte's books on the subject. Or read the new study by researchers at the University of New South Wales.

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