Wired 11.09: PowerPoint Is Evil

Edward Tufte has an interesting Wired article entitled PowerPoint Is Evil. The main point is that PowerPoint forces people to create presentations in a certain way, and he especially comments on the problems of bullet points.

I have made quite a lot of PowerPoint presentations over the years, and I clearly see his point. It is, indeed, easy to fall into the habit of creating lots of bullet points covering everything you want to say. In my own experience, this has been because I didn’t want to create a manuscript, and then the slides with bullet points served as notes to myself. Starting some months back, I have tried to use the notes field more, so that I can have the points available for myself, but display less on the screen that is visible to the audience. I have also started experimenting with using OmniGraffle Pro for presentations, since it now allows for making links between various diagrams. This is, at least for me, a much more intuitive and nonlinear approach to create presentations, although it does not support video and audio playback. That said, true media support seems to be poor in all the current presentation tools.

I also found some nice comments here:

If you’re going to escape the tyranny of the bullet point, you have to get away from the idea that what’s in your slides is the content of your presentation. Slides aren’t big enough or rich enough or smart enough to themselves contain any presentation worth listening to for more than about ten minutes. Instead, your slides are a visual auxiliary to your material; no more, no less. They’re terrific for source code, for graphs, for screen shots, for pictures of people.

As Bob Foster said on this subject: “The best speakers I have seen use slides like singers use pianos; they don’t play the melody.”

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.