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December 09, 2006

Links - Microsoft Powerpoint

I've been stockpiling links in Bloglines for a while now, but unfortunately barely have the time to read them, let alone make decent comments. Unfortunately I want them cleaned out, and so over the next few days will do just that. You'll get a link and a brief excerpt - nothing more.

To start, I'd like to introduce this essay by Edward Tufte:

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science--and Better Techniques for Technical Reports

Nearly all engineering presentations at NASA are made in PowerPoint. Is this a produce endorsement or a big mistake. Does PP's cognitive style effect the quality of engineering analysis? How does PP compare with alternative methods of technical presentation?

I've often been slightly discontented with the use of PowerPoint for presentations. It's often the first clue that your lecture is likely to be boring. Reading from slides is not an acceptable way to convey information to an (hopefully) intelligent audience.

Tufte argues strongly that the bullet-point style of displaying information disrupts coherent thought and logical flow. The lecturers who use PP often ignore the hard boundaries between slides, but I can imagine that this is harder in a business context. Can't explain your point properly? That's OK - just ignore most of the subtleties so it will fit on the slide.

The very interested can buy an essay in book form:

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within

In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now "slideware" computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?

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