Monday, July 25, 2011

Is it just me

I'm thinking about starting a petition against the misuse of Powerpoint. Unusually though, I'm not campaigning against 'Death by Powerpoint' problem (scourge though it is). My campaign is "If it isn't a presentation, it isn't a Powerpoint'.

In a meeting with a colleague last week, he said that he'd put together a few slides for a client meeting next week. I mentioned that previous meetings had been in a room without a projector, so it wasn't likely to be 'presentation-friendly'. I added that he should just use Word. Apparently though he wasn't expecting to present the material, just use Powerpoint to produce a document.

The product wasn't going to be a detailed report. It would be a few observations, suggestions and recommendations. Maybe with a couple of diagrams. I suspect it wouldn't be any harder to produce such a document in Powerpoint. It may even be easier. But it gives me the squirms.

Powerpoint is (or should be) are creating slides for a presentation. They don't have to include pretty animations and transitions and there's nothing wrong with being able to print out the presentation for reference. Using it to build something intended as a printed document seems wrong though, like storing a date in a string.

It is that form of misuse that ensures Microsoft have to allow the use of 8 and 10pt fonts, and default to new slides to streams of bullet points. Things that kill 'real' presentations. Frankly, it turns Powerpoint into a mule. [I'm not sure whether Apple's Keynote suffers the same problem.]

And we shouldn't judge a document on the number of pages it has. If you can fit it all on a single page, there's nothing wrong with that. Blowing up the font size to 'Super Large', only fitting three or four sentences to a page and then delivering it in ten pages doesn't help. And it either wastes paper, or you end up printing it two-pages per side of paper and just making it look ugly.

So save Powerpoint for when you expect to be clicking through the slides,

Martin Widlake and Tim Hall have both blogged about Powerpoint recently. Martin has been developing his image skills. Apparently gradients fills are more natural. Tim points out that the only time you see a floppy disk these days is on a toolbar icon.

Next week I've got a one-day course on delivering successful presentations. For that I've got to prepare a two minute presentation, so I'll see if I can manage a '2 Minute Application Express'. Will practice that over the next few days, and maybe post it as a webcast.


Tim... said...

You are going to love this...

I used to work for a company where the standard documentation tool was Powerpoint. Yes, Powerpoint, not Word!

I asked why and I never received a reasonable answer. Amazing...



PS. Your comments don't accept Powerpoint submissions. How do I make them imclude custom animations? :)

Anonymous said...

Nods head... Yes, I've recently been working for a client where it was part of the culture to put anything you wanted to bring to the attention of the managers into a set of PowerPoint slides rather than a word document. I figured they liked to be able to have discrete chunks of simplified information rather than a flowing document that covered the topic in more depth. Part of me could see the sense of it in simplifying and compartmentalising the information and part of me felt like I was being made to produce baby-food documentation - simple and easy to digest.

By the way, if on the course the tutor at any point puts forward the mantra of "tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them" please beat them to death with the projector. I get so very tired of sitting through presentations that are the same material just being run through three times, twice with not enough detail to be of any use. It's a terrible way to present - I would much rather read a word document.... :-)