Monday, 24 August 2009

PowerPoint is innocent!

Apparently PowerPoint is responsible for making corporate presentations dull and really boring. I beg to differ. Corporate presentations were dull and really boring long before PowerPoint saw the light of day and were far, far worse for the excessive use of flipcharts!

PowerPoint in itself is neutral, the way we use it is what generates enthusiasm - or boredom.

Having said that, I once gave a presentation at a meeting of senior managers. It was well received and I had gone to a lot of effort to ensure that the slides were illustrative rather than electronic cue cards for me. In one way the presentation was a success in that the meeting decided to adopt the approach I had recommended. However, I was taken to one side after the meeting and asked by the meeting's chair to redraft my slides such that they more accurately reflected what I had said so that no "overly extensive" minutes were needed. I was admonished that all presentations needed to be bullet points only to enable non attendees to read them and get the gist of what was said. Needless to say I had to join the "bullet point brigade" thereafter. Well, mostly!

Although I resented the intervention at the time, he did have a point. We had moved on from using PowerPoint as simply a visual aid. The slide print outs became a hard copy record of the minutes that could be audited. It was the way the organisation worked and we can hardly blame PowerPoint for our internal processes.

Another frustration of mine is that the same argument for wordy slides is used when PowerPoint presentations are to be put online. It may take a while, but I'm hopeful that we'll move to podcasts of the original presentation, complete with audio.

As someone who lectured in a University for nearly 10 years I'd defend PowerPoint against all comers. If a presentation is boring and uninformative, it's not the fault of a computer programme. When used in combination with good teaching techniques and a range of other presentation skills PowerPoint is a powerful and engaging medium.

If people fall asleep during your presentation, it's not the slides that are boring them!