28 February 2011

A Rant Against PowerPoint

The other day I had to do a presentation for my PR class. The presentation was to be based on the Research chapter of our book and was to have "additional visual media" including, of course, a PowerPoint presentation. I moaned and decried the unfairness. I hate PowerPoint (generally) and find it incredibly annoying to have to (by grade requirement) to make such presentations only because the teachers can't imagine a better way of presenting the material (while I've been making effective presentations without PowerPoint for more than five years on a variety of topics). I read and reread the presentation requirements and realized that I didn't have to do a PowerPoint but simply had to have a "visual media" to assist in my presentation (though PowerPoint was specifically recommended).

Instead of a lame presentation, I opted to draw a hierarchy of my presentation points and distribute it to my students. This method, I reasoned, would be superior to a PowerPoint presentation for three reasons: First, because we would be presenting in a crowded room from our laptops, the visual appearance of the PowerPoint itself is difficult to see and wouldn't particularly engaging (bad environment). Second, I feel it is important for students to record the insights they gain and thus wanted the students to have a related piece of paper (as opposed the scratch paper) to record on their thoughts and insights on (a learning aid). Third, I felt that the content of the presentation lent itself very well to a hierarchy, which PowerPoint does a poor job of showing because doesn't show the "big picture" very well (topic constraints).

You may be wondering why it is that I dislike PowerPoint so much. The answers are simple. I have spent far too many hours sitting in classrooms and professional presentations where the presenter would show a slide, look at the slide, read the slide, recap the side, move to the next slide and repeat the process. This might not sound so bad, but more often the process looks more like this: Click. "Oh, why did I include this slide?" (Presenter quickly reads the slide to himself.) "Oh, this slide is saying, 'If you can read this then there isn't really a reason for me to read it to you, but I am going to read it aloud anyway because I think you are as slow in the head as garden slugs,' then with a slight pause, 'When people see things on the screen they tend to read them, and if they read them the presenter should not read the words for them. But I did anyway because my presentation is so low on data transfer that I have to teach you as if you were garden slugs, otherwise I don't think you will understand what I am talking about.'" Click. "Why did I include this slide?" (Presenter quickly reads...

These presentations are not only so incredibly boring that even garden slugs would be bored to death, they also have incredibly low information transfer rates. In the end I am forced to suppress an overwhelming desire to get up and yell, "I'm going to lunch. Send me the slides and I will skim them when I get some time," as I walk out the door.

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