I am not the first person to proclaim that PowerPoint is a scourge upon the land. I see similarities between the effect Karaoke machines have had on live entertainment in pubs, and what PowerPoint has done to the art of presenting. Recorded instrumentals and back-up vocals, CRT-displayed lyrics, and liquor combine to make people think they are delivering quality music to a crowd when they are actually inflicting pain. Similarly, the ability to display text on a wall makes people think they are communicating with a crowd when they are actually reducing the amount of meaningful data that gets conveyed. We will not consider the spin-off benefit of it being a non-medicinal sleep aid.
Of course, it’s not Microsoft’s fault. Just like the NRA’s assertion that guns don’t kill people, PowerPoint doesn’t bore people – people bore people. But having guns lying around increases the probability people will get killed, and using PowerPoint almost always increases the chance that people will be bored. As a tool, it is grossly misused.
If you are presenting to a group, and you put lots of text up on the wall and proceed to read it aloud, you are actually slowing the transmission of that information, because they can read faster than you can talk. If you want to convey ideas that are best communicated in writing, then send an email. If you want to make sure they all understand it, or want to see how it affects the group, then call a meeting by all means. But tell them your message, do not read it to them.
Where proper PowerPoint usage comes in is in backing your speech with images that are “worth a thousand words.” They might be photographs of what you are talking about – it is easier to show people what a new car model looks like than to describe it. They could be stunning visuals that convey emotion like a firefighter carrying a child from a burning building, or a victorious athlete. They could be informative like charts and graphs. (But keep these simple if you use them!) Or they could be single words, or short phrases, that punch up or highlight segments of your spoken presentation.
Please join the crusade to make boring presentations a thing of the past!