When I started giving talks in Australia in the mid-noughts, powerpoint was IN. It was the proper, professional thing to do. I never used it for regular talks, but on occasion, for more serious presentations, I put them together.
Lately, given my dislike for all WYSIWYG software, I’ve been using remark.js, which basically lets you write your slideshows as markdown. It’s cool, and lets you compose attractive slideshows without a clunky GUI.
But powerpoints, or slideshows more generally, are usually a bad idea. There’s a bunch of research out there, which basically shows that there is little or no benefit to using slideshows, and it may even harm your message.
To my mind, the most persuasive indication as to the effectiveness of powerpoint is showcased by Microsoft themselves. They make the software, they must understand how useful it is, right? Here’s their major product presentation from last year.
See how effectively they use powerpoint? It’s so subtle, it’s almost as if it weren’t there! (Narrator: it was not, in fact, there.)
Powerpoints divide the students’ attention, and they shift the teacher’s focus from the students to the machines. More insidiously, they encourage a presentation of information as sliced up factettes, items listed in order that get an explication, but which do not evolve or connect, and lack emotional and logical coherence.
And this is why good speakers don’t use them. Seriously, think of all the people who actually communicate well, and see if any of them use powerpoint.
Of course it’s just a tool, and there are valid uses. If you need to present visual information (graphs, images, etc.), show a video, or give some facts as basis for a discussion, them sure. For myself, I might want to show a phrase or passage that’s under discussion.
But don’t just make a list of items and read from them, or worse, give a slab of text. A presentation is not a set of lecture notes. It does not engage students, nor does it enhance comprehension or retention.
If you find yourself wanting to use powerpoint, ask, “Can I do without it?” And if you do use it, ask, “What is it that genuinely needs to be communicated visually?”
Use your voice. It was good enough for the Buddha.