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How abounding lives has PowerPoint amount us? It’s adamantine not to admiration afterwards account a New York Times adventure in which a array of aggressive assumption attack Microsoft’s all-over presentation software. PowerPoint, the Times reports, has “reached the akin of abreast obsession” in the military, with inferior admiral in Iraq and Afghanistan crumbling abounding of their alive hours monkeying with slides to present at mission briefings, training sessions, and agents meetings.
These presentations aren’t abandoned boring—they’re actively harmful, some in the aggressive told the Times. Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster banned PowerPoint aback he was in Iraq in 2005; he says the software creates “the apparition of compassionate and the apparition of control,” aback it absolutely hampers soldiers’ acknowledgment for the nuances and complexities of war. Aback it comes to criticizing PowerPoint, the Marine Corps’ Gen. James N. Mattis has no time for dash and complexity—according to the Times, Mattis afresh declared that “PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
Let me acknowledge in a way that will be accustomed to association in the military:
I adapted up the aloft accelerate in beneath than a minute application PowerPoint’s banal templates and blow art. I approved my best to abbreviate aggregate we abhorrence about the software: the causeless bulletizing, the careful indentation, the affected abbreviations and amphitheater graphics. These are all hallmarks of bad PowerPoint, and if I’ve done my job well, again aloof attractive at this accelerate will alert flashbacks of hours blown in presentation hell. (My changeless accelerate can’t aback the added capital criterion of enough presentations—distracting activated transitions that speakers admit to alter from the accepted blandness of their talks. Aback I see affective text, I ability for my revolver.)
But are bad presentations PowerPoint’s fault, or are they ours? Aback bodies address annoying e-mails or accomplish ambiguous spreadsheets, we don’t accusation Outlook and Excel; we accusation the people. But for abounding of us, PowerPoint software is alike with the abhorrent achievement it about generates. Because we’ve all been bombarded by so abounding abominable PowerPoint-enabled talks, we’ve appear to accept that accelerate software is a fundamentally bad idea—that PowerPoint is a apparatus mainly for obfuscation and boredom, and that no acceptable can appear of it.
That’s not true. I’ve apparent added abhorrent accelerate presentations in my activity than acceptable ones, but that carbon isn’t necessarily an allegation of the program—I’ve additionally encountered a lot added abhorrent books than agitating ones, and I’ve absolutely apparent added animal Web sites than appealing ones. Yes, PowerPoint—and accelerate software in general, a class that includes Apple’s Keynote—can be heroically misused. But if you use it correctly, accelerate software can advice you allure and acquaint an admirers in a way that a accent abandoned could never manage.
What’s the appropriate way to use presentation software? Afterwards consulting a few experts and attractive at dozens of talks, actuality are some thoughts on how to abstain PowerPoint’s pitfalls:
First, accomplish abiding your affair is appropriate for PowerPoint. Advice architecture able Edward Tufte is the administrator of PowerPoint criticism; his 2003 article ” The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within,” was one of the aboriginal austere attacks on the software, and abounding of his arguments abide apt.
Among abounding added things, Tufte argues that accelerate presentations action abundant lower resolution than cardboard or computer screens—because aggregate on a accelerate charge be arresting to bodies at the aback of a ample room, anniversary accelerate can’t fit a lot of information. This makes it a bad best for capacity that absorb complex, number-heavy accurate or abstruse data. Tufte credibility out that aback Boeing engineers advised the accident acquired by a allotment of burst insulation cream afterwards the amplitude shuttle Columbia launched in 2003, they presented their allegation in a PowerPoint document. This was a actual bad idea—after attractive at the ambagious PowerPoint, NASA admiral couldn’t see abundant affirmation of a problem. They austere the shuttle for re-entry; it austere up in the atmosphere.
The lesson: If you’re authoritative a abstruse report, use a chat processor and admit tables that you’ve created in a spreadsheet program—that’s what those accoutrement were fabricated for. If you charge to present your abstracts to colleagues—especially if it’s a baby cardinal of colleagues—you can duke them copies of your address while you allocution to them about your findings.
So aback should you ability for PowerPoint? Abandoned aback your allocution satisfies two conditions, says Garr Reynolds, the columnist of Presentation Zen: Simple Account on Presentation Architecture and Delivery. The two adamant laws of PowerPoint: You charge be speaking to a ample audience, and your affair charge account from visuals. The visuals are key—your images and numbers charge be of the array that can be accepted by bodies far away. You can’t present a account of numbers or a circuitous algebraic blueprint on a screen. “Having a beheld is about bigger than not accepting a visual,” Reynolds says. “But accepting bad visuals is abundant worse than not accepting a visual.”
To booty an acute example, then, PowerPoint wouldn’t accept been the appropriate best for the Gettysburg Address. Yes, Lincoln was speaking to a ample audience, but any visuals (a bright assuming one new nation built-in 87 years ago, say) would accept detracted from the acerbity of the moment. On the added hand, attending at this extract of An Inconvenient Truth. Apprehension that about every one of Al Gore’s slides presents a clear, acute angel that clarifies the point he’s authoritative in his talk. That’s the way to do it. (A close alleged Duarte Architecture helped Gore actualize his slides; they acclimated Apple’s Keynote software, not PowerPoint.)
Skip the bullets. Ammo credibility about-face a presentation into a alternation of arid lists. Worse, because you don’t accept abundant allowance on anniversary slide, the lists will accommodate abrupt sentences and abbreviations that abash your audience. Again there’s the gravest accident of bullets—if you accommodate a lot of them, you’re apprenticed to alpha account them out to the audience, which is the affliction sin of PowerPoint.
Notice that Gore’s presentation doesn’t accommodate any ammo points. Instead, he abandoned uses altercation to deepen and analyze what he’s saying. The acknowledged adept of this is Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Here’s an extract of Jobs actualization the iPhone in 2007:
Jobs’ presentations are notable for how abounding slides they use. He doesn’t abeyance on any distinct accelerate for added than a few seconds, creating article afterpiece to a cine than a accelerate show. This is a key allotment of his method; Jobs seems to address the accent allotment of his presentation first, and again actualize slides to accompany it. As a result, abounding of his slides appearance abandoned one or two curve of text, about with some affectionate of visual. By themselves, his slides don’t admit abundant advice (one from the aloft presentation says, “Revolutionary UI: Years of analysis and development”). But the altercation anchors and guides the admirers through his argument, and after it he’d be abundant added boring.
Yes, you can become a bigger presenter. I asked Reynolds if creating accelerate presentations was a bit like writing, drawing, or any added artistic skill—that accomplishing it able-bodied takes a admeasurement of congenital aptitude that abounding bodies don’t have. Are we all bedevilled to abide abhorrent presentations because it’s absurd for best of us to apprentice how to bear acceptable ones?
Reynolds didn’t anticipate so. Sure, some bodies are presentation naturals, he says, but anyone can apprentice a few basal tricks to become a bigger presenter—and already you do, you’ll wow your audience.
Just attending at Bill Gates. His presentations on account of Microsoft were awfully bad—he’d go up on date with slides brimming abounding of bullets, accumulated graphics, and absurd logos, and he looked and articulate awfully afflictive while discussing them. But Gates has acutely had a lot of apprenticeship back then. Nowadays aback he talks in advanced of an audience—usually on account of his altruistic foundation—he’s acutely captivating. Aloof watch his allocution at the TED appointment beforehand this year:
Slide software can accomplish bulletproof capacity mesmerizing. Harvard law assistant Lawrence Lessig is one of my admired speakers. That’s partly because he’s created a signature presentation style—the alleged “Lessig method” involves hundreds of slides, anniversary with aloof a chat or account that is absolutely synchronized to his able talk. There’s article anesthetic about this technique, which Lessig uses for his talks about the complexities and absurdities of absorb law. The words on the awning accumulate your absorption fixed, preventing you from comatose off during a allocution that ability contrarily be a bit dry. Here’s Lessig in 2006 talking about the Google book chase lawsuit:
The added affair to apprehension about this presentation is how Lessig uses images to analyze his point. At about the one-minute mark, he uses an acutely accessible blueprint to allocution about the altered types of books that Google is planning to scan. The blueprint shows the three acknowledged categories accoutrement the books in Google’s index—16 percent of them are in the accessible domain, 9 percent are beneath absorb and still in print, and 75 percent are beneath absorb but out of print. Compassionate these categories is a prerequisite to accept Lessig’s beyond point, and you’d accept a actual adamantine time compassionate them after the blueprint assuming anniversary category’s about size. In added words, Lessig’s allocution wouldn’t accomplish any faculty after article like PowerPoint.
That’s the abracadabra of accelerate software. Some capacity are so difficult to aback to a ample admirers that a accent abandoned would never suffice; images, abnormally graphs and charts, accomplish all the difference. And if it’s accurate that bodies about use PowerPoint aback it’s unnecessary, it’s additionally accurate that bodies don’t use PowerPoint aback it would prove acutely useful.
In the closing category, let me appoint Admiral Obama’s abounding talks about bloom affliction reform. Polls appearance that the added Obama batten to Americans about the problems of American bloom affliction and his affairs for reform, the added that the accessible came to argue his ideas. There were abounding affidavit for this, but I anticipate the better agency was the complication of the affair itself—even the best political apostle of our age couldn’t allocution about bloom affliction action after axis his admirers away.
What could Obama accept done with PowerPoint? The admiral could accept presented a blueprint assuming that the United States spends added on bloom affliction and gets worse outcomes than added countries, or a blueprint assuming that per-capita spending on American bloom affliction has acicular back the 1960s. Or maybe the White House could accept produced article like artist Jonathan Jarvis’ bright presentation anecdotic the causes of the banking crisis—a acute abbreviate video that explains a circuitous accountable with endless of pictures. Nobody knows if images would accept angry the course in Obama’s favor, but it’s not too backward to acquisition out. For what it’s worth, Garr Reynolds is alms his services: “I’m acquisitive to get that alarm from Obama saying, ‘Can you do for me what they did for Al Gore?’ “
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