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Tufte on Powerpoint...

...or rather on not using it and on why he considers it to be bad.

Some interesting thoughts on design and presentations. And a nifty cartoon. It does make we wonder why, back in the Scient days, we would oftne actually provide a PowerPoint-based deliverable to our clients. How many second phase projects were lost because of the inherent problems in using slideware for information delivery?

"In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40 words, which is about eight seconds' worth of silent reading material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless sequentiality, one damn slide after another. When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships. Visual reasoning usually works more effectively when relevant information is shown side by side. Often, the more intense the detail, the greater the clarity and understanding. This is especially so for statistical data, where the fundamental analytical act is to make comparisons."

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
major_clanger
Aug. 20th, 2003 12:42 pm (UTC)
The real culprit is not Powerpoint (which is IMHO a very good application for what it is meant to do) but the 'wizards' and template presentations that come with it. Visual aids are just that: aids to your presentation, not the presentation itself. They should illustrate your point or present graphical information that you are going to explain or discuss, rather than just summarize what you are going to say anyway.

But then I've been formally taught both how to give presentations and how to use visual aids in a classroom or lecture environment. Most people who use Powerpoint haven't, and think that a Presentation Wizard can substitute for this.

MC
bibliofile
Aug. 20th, 2003 02:35 pm (UTC)
Visual aids are just that: aids to your presentation, not the presentation itself. They should illustrate your point or present graphical information that you are going to explain or discuss, rather than just summarize what you are going to say anyway.

Yes, it's true! That's exactly the problem.

I took a short course from Tufte, and he used 0 (zero) overheads. The visual aids he used were prime examples of what he was describing. In the case of a page of a book, we passed the thing around the entire room.

PowerPoint can be a useful summary too for, say, the speaker to keep (but not so the audience can see 'em). OTOH, you don't need PowerPoint to do a larger-print content outline.
red_cloud
Aug. 21st, 2003 02:34 am (UTC)
People use the term "PowerPoint presentation", as if a series of slides is the presentation itself. The effect of this is that few people work on their own presentation skills and rely too heavily on a seemingly unending seies of increasingly dull slides to make their point. I'm sure we've all been to coma-inducing PowerPoint-based presentations involving near-death experiences. Is there any precedent in law of a PowerPoint presentation being cited as a murder weapon?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )