Sunday, May 09, 2010

In defence of Powerpoint

I recently became slightly embroiled in a debate about Powerpoint, when it came under fire [insert own pun about bullets] on the infodesign café list - best known critic is Edward Tufte, of course. Thought I might share my contribution here:

"In defence of Powerpoint, perhaps the contrarian view in this list...
  • on one hand, there's nothing more deadly than someone reading off a load of bullet points, word for word
  • but on the other hand something like this doesn't catch on unless it fills a need, and we should hesitate before assuming people are lazy or worse for using it
  • it's not always displacing a longer reasoned argument (which takes hours to write). More often it's the alternative to a spontaneous, unscripted verbal performance, which goes unrecorded, can easily go wrong, and which not everyone is confident enough to attempt.
  • I've found Powerpoint particularly useful when speaking to people whose first language is not my own, and for following presentations in another language, when I have only a school-level reading knowledge of it..
  • it's also good for people who weren't at the meeting... when I've given presentations without slides, or with purely visual ones used as punctuation or as talking points, I end up producing bullet point versions to distribute later.
  • is there some contradiction between the view that Powerpoint "fundamentally devalues reasoning and logic in an argument, and replaces it with mere summation and statement" and the idea that "one good image, or one good graph with important statistics, is much more persuasive"? [quote from another debater in the list]
  • Powerpoint is easily mocked with the Gettysburg address or Churchill's speeches in bullet point form, but oratory uses similar techniques to make itself easily grasped and memorable: rhythm, alliteration, etc. 
I think seven bullets is enough... "