Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are we really putting power in our points?

What's the primary objective of almost any presentation if not to deliver a message so that the audience pays attention to it and, bettet yet, retains it? To this end, "expert" communicators for many years have preached that information makes a greater impression on people when they can both hear and see the information.

Hence, the "powerpoint," that ubiquitous graphic marvel with all manner of backgrounds and flashy fonts flying in from all directions. Unlike the old slide shows which required several days of lead time, a powerpoint can be created fairly quickly and revised right up to showtime. In addition, copies can be printed for the attendees so "you don't have to take notes," just sit back and ignore the speaker!

Why do I say that? What happens when the powerpoint flickers to life? The audience turns its attention toward the screen and away from the presenter -- who is looking at the screen as well. (Whatever happened to eye contact?) Worse, attendees often receive the handout beforehand, so they can spend most of the presentation looking down at the pages in front of them.

Besides, what's wrong with taking notes? Aren't we even more likely to remember something when we've written it down ourselves?

Sure, the powerpoint may be appropriate in a training environment or for topics that require images (images, not words) for understanding. Even then, presenters are well advised not to lean on it like a crutch but to keep the power of their presentation in the points they proclaim - in the spoken word.


Alas, ours is more and more a visual age, even when it comes to traffic tickets - as in red light cameras. But do they pose a danger for traffic? Have you ever seen drivers speeding through an intersection trying to fix their hair?

Remember: Say “Cheese!”


John Ettorre said...

Interesting stuff, Mike. Powerpoint is one of those things that's fine, but only in moderation. Your little riff here reminded me that the New Yorker did a classic piece some years ago, a kind of social history of Powerpoint, so I went looking for it, and found only the opening is online, and that it was published a lot longer ago (seven years) than I thought, back about the time of the dot-com bust, and shortly before 9/11.

Mike Q said...

Wow, John, thanks. That's the first time my name has ever appeared with the New Yorker in the same paragraph. I'll have to start going beyond the cartoons.