It's how you use the medium

Every few years someone rails against PowerPoint, but of course what they're really complaining about it is the style of presentations people use the application to produce. One of the oldest and funniest examples is the Gettysburg Address reproduced in that style. Slide five is great :)

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald published a piece quoting John Sweller that "It [PowerPoint] should be ditched". The reason is that it's difficult for people to process information that is being delivered to them through text and speech simultaneously.

Garr Reynolds, who owns the excellent Presentation Zen site, picked up on the quote today and added some notes of his own. He's already written two very good articles this year on Signal vs. Noise (here and here) and this latest one continues to show how you can create bypass this problem and create effective presenations with PowerPoint.

I've done a few myself this year, all in the style from Beyond Bullet Points (thanks Brad), and people have commented on how nice it is to not have to focus on the slide and the speaker at the same time. I think we're starting to see a shift in how people use PowerPooint, but it will take a while. Maybe Microsoft could start shipping some stock photos and update some of the templates to get people into this new mindset.

But in the meantime, don't blame the medium. The message should be the most important part of a presentation, but how you convey that information to your audience comes in a close second. After all, if they can just read the slides, then why are you there? :)