Monday, July 1, 2013

Hate PowerPoint

PowerPoint is almost universally abhorred as a presentation medium. However, most of the critiques leveraged against it apply to most other slide based presentation systems (Keynote, Google Docs, Impress, etc...).

Here is my list of "big thoughts" on the topic (aka required reading):

Edward Tufte
http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB&topic_id=1
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/ppt2.html

Peter Norvig
http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/

Gen McChrystal, Gen Mattis, and others
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?_r=0

Finding an alternative is tricky. Especially when most presentation forums require you to provide or use "slides". More on that in a later blog post. I tried Prezi for a while, but using cloud services for proprietary or sensitive information sometimes isn't an option. Plus with non-linear presentation mediums like Prezi there's always the chance of parts of your audience getting motion sickness during the presentation (this happened once while I was using Prezi during a small group meeting). Do you really want your audience to remember their lurching stomach when they think back to your presentation? Me neither. So... for now... PowerPoint it is in most cases. 

Whenever possible, I at least try to push out a document read-ahead in advance of any important presentation. This trick can help those who care the most about the topic benefit as much as possible from the presentation. Having the document stand alone as a capture of the information seems to be more beneficial to me than disjointed text in the notes section of each slide. It also makes re-use of the information at a later time easier.