Wednesday, June 20, 2007

20 Years of Death by Powerpoint

Powerpoint turns 20 according to the Wallstreet journal. (sorry no link) That got me thinking about Learning...doesn't everything :-)

I posted some interesting data on The eLearning Guild's Research blog regarding Powerpoint and Synchronous Learning Systems: PPT is still the most frequently used feature and has the highest ease of use rating.

The Learning industry has also created its own little niche market of tools that magically convert Powerpoint to eLearning...just saying that sends chills up and down my spine. Yes, anyone can create eLearning as long as they know how to use Powerpoint, right? Arrgghh.

Did Powerpoint kill good design or did we simply get lazy because of Powerpoint?

Perhaps no one fights the good fight more effectively than Garr Reynolds of (here's a good post to start with, but they are ALL top notch)

But in celebration of this event I thought is best to focus on the negative...

DevilDucky links to comedian Don McMillan's video Life after Death by Powerpoint!
(This one is HILARIOUS! and also linked all over the web)

The Learning blogosphere's own Karl Kapp asks the May BIG QUESTION: Avoiding Death by Powerpoint.

And there's actually a BOOK - Death by Powerpoint

From Microsoft Office product Manager
another MS employee

Death by Powerpoint resource kit - presentation done in Keynote (Mac presentation software)

Political bloggers give new meaning to the term Death by Powerpoint and the war in Iraq.

oh yea, and how can we forget to blame Powerpoint for NASA...ehhemm...issues.

Avoid Death by Powerpoint - 5 most common problems with Powerpoint presentations only proclaims NEAR Death by Powerpoint

and scientific PROOF from Australia that Powerpoint can in fact render you unconscious. Siting the "cognitive load theory" effecting short term memory negatively in the case of most presentations featuring text as the primary content type.

And from O'reilly we learn how to give Powerpoint presentations in Secondlife. Thanks, O'reilly. THAT'S exactly what we needed...geezh.



Tom Kuhlmann said...

There's a certain irony to the fact that the same people who complain about powerpoint have blogs that look no better than the slides they complain about:)

Brent Schlenker said...

Hi Tom! I sense tongue-in-cheek, yes? However, I fail to see the irony or the connection...even the most remote connection...between PowerPoint and blogging: 2 very different tools intended for 2 VERY different purposes.
Perhaps you see something that I don't? In which case, I'm very interested in your insite.
Thanks for commenting! I love the discussion.

Tom Kuhlmann said...

Hey Brent. Enjoy your blog. Got to hear you at Masie last year. I really like your energy and passion. It's infectious.

Of course, my comment is tongue in cheek. However, I think that too many people in our industry knock PPT because it's a popular thing to do. Look at your post, "But in celebration of this event I thought is best to focus on the negative...."

You chose to take a negative route.
What if you took a positive route? It's an easy to use tool that many in our industry use.

PPT is versatile. It's a presentation tool., marketing vehicle, training tool, repository fo rreference material and meeting notes, create graphics, etc. I like to use it with Articulate Presenter to create quick flash animations by pulling out the slide.swf.

Many in our industry are not pundits. They are hard working people who are forced to work with strict budgets and many have limited technical skill. A lot don't have formal training backgrounds and might be weak in certain skills.

The way I see it, as a community our role is to empower others, not stand on soap boxes with an elitist view point and knock the work that others are doing. By this, I am not implying that you are doing that.

Sure there's a lot of bad stuff out there, but that isn't the tool, yet everyone blasts PPT rather than the one who creates the bad stuff.

I don't see many blogs about "death by word" or "death by blogger" even though I've seen a lot more junk in those formats:)

As far as the blog to PPT comparison, I think there is a connection. If bullet points on a PPT slide is inherently evil, then why isn't it the same for bullet points on a blog? In essence, their both just screens with text.

BTW, I hope to have my blog up and running soon...and congrats on your new job.

Brent Schlenker said...

First off...thanks for continuing the conversation. I love that!
The new job is awesome...thanks for the congrats!

Maybe you never suffered through a decade or more of engineers and their hundreds of bullet points (10pt font) on what seems like hundreds of slides...I have. I've died a thousand deaths by powerpoint. There is TOTAL justification for bashing the misuse that has occurred over the years. Is it the tools fault...mostly NO, but I would say a little, YES! Everything about Powerpoint is based on the bullet point...NOT on the presentation of the content.

That brings me to the Blogs to PPT comparison. I may read poorly written blogs, but none of them contain ONLY bullet points. Death by Powerpoint came about by users using ONLY bullets to make their points, and the presenter would simply READ them to the audience. I've seen trainers make a career traveling around the world simply reading directly from a 200+ powerpoint deck...and I am NOT exaggerating that number...oh yeah, and THAT was just the Overview!

Blogs are stream of consciousness momments connecting people and creating a conversation...just like what you and I are doing. PowerPoint can't do that...never will. Powerpoint is used for a captive audience that is at the mercy of the presenter and the slides they prepare. Readers of blogs can turn the page or turn off the blogger. Again, its not the tool its what the tool is used for.

I'll admit that when I create presentations I use bullet points, but that's only the outline...the very beginning of the process. Once that is done I move on to delivery and the "kick ass" factor. If what I put on the slide doesn't make you go "oooh"...then its gone. Sometimes it takes a series of slides to make the point (pun intended) in ONE of my bullet be it.

Did you watch the hilarious video of the of comedian talking about powerpoint presentations? His schtick wouldn't be funny AT ALL if the audience couldn't relate. Everyone creates powerpoints at one point or another and everyone has created the boring bullets and epic text that we read to the audience. We bash the tool, because the tool is an extension of us. And we are all laughing at ourselves.
Creating a truly engaging powerpoint slide takes endless hours of work that many don't have and so we breath a heavy sigh and just get the job done. I get it...I do it. that's why I chose the negative route: Its just so much funnier because we've all been there!

I also believe that by knocking the tool we alleviate our own anxieties and therefore don't feel bad about pointing our frustrations at any person in particular.

PowerPoint and Articulate are a fabulous pair. When we're getting paid to get the job done then these tools get the job, cheap, and easy. BUT, has anyone ever been blown away by the incredible design quality, color selection, font selection, the balance, harmony, timing, voice, etc. Has anyone been moved to tears, or laughter.

Deep learning requires an emotional response to what we are delivering. Sure, we get the job done. But when was the last time you really MOVED someone?

In the hands of the masters PowerPoint has the ability to support incredibly moving presentations, delivered by powerful presenters. Mastering the tool does not mean you are a master presenter.
Its not the tools fault and the work being done by millions in PowerPoint is good...there's just so much more that can be done.

Good stuff! I look forward to welcoming you to the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a good post. I think it's great that anyone can create e-learning course if they know PowerPoint. As for me I use iSpring Ultra to do it and very positive about this.