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October 01, 2009

Crushing souls for fun and profit

The BBC commemorates – I won’t say ‘celebrates’ – 25 years of PowerPoint.  And the statistics are alarming.

The average PowerPoint session, apparently, runs for 250 minutes.  More than four hours!  I still feel bad about a presentation that overran to an hour and a half.  I’d like to say I can’t imagine what it would be like to sit through an “average” 4-hour PowerPoint session, but I can.  All too clearly.

And the average PowerPoint slide shows 40 words.  Admittedly this figure is distorted by a former colleague, the splendid Jane Smith, whose average PowerPoint slide showed 265.4 words, but surely even Jane’s prodigious output can’t account for more than 0.07 of that average.

Anyway, the article does also offer a few basic tips on the dangers of PowerPoint and how to avoid them (plus, from the comments, the delightful coinage “PowerPoint karaoke,” which I am officially adding to my vocabulary), and I’ll throw in one anecdote of my own.

A few years back I did a “training the trainers” course.  Although this was well into the PowerPoint era, the lady who ran the course did all her slides on printed transparencies on an old-skool overhead projector, and made us do the same.  How strange, we thought: if you were projecting off a laptop you wouldn’t need to faff around taking one slide off, putting it carefully down, transferring the protective tissue paper to the other side and placing and adjusting the new slide on the projector.  You could get straight onto the next slide and completely avoid all that delay.  Ah, she explained, but the time between slides was an open space.  You, and your trainees, could and should use it to invite questions, discussion or just reflection.  The slow turnaround between slides wasn’t a bug.  It was a feature.

In that moment, I became enlightened.

October 1, 2009 in Usability | Permalink

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Comments

Fun, and I'd go a step further. If sloppy presenters had to print out all their slides, they might not make us sit through the same information presented eight different ways eight different times. Or they might, of course, if the aim were corporate unity rather than education.

Posted by: AK at Oct 1, 2009 10:32:14 PM