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Or if critical data is presented in a form that leads to brain-death, talked about by Tufte in this Wired article, and in more detail in his book, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.
Then there's the phenomenon of "talking to the slides", where the speaker is constrained into following a script. But given how many people hate slide presentations, why is it universally assumed that where there is "a talk", there's PowerPoint (or its much cooler cousin, Apple's KeyNote)? There are times when the very content you're speaking on directly relates to something you need or want to show. But yes, there are definitely times you need slides, and at the end of this post I'll mention where you might look for info on making kick-ass presentations. I'm sure you all realize what a lame-ass excuse that is, but I've heard it enough times to know some folks believe it. Now, I'm not an expert on presentations, and not a particularly good presenter myself, so take this with a grain of salt.
1) Is what you're showing absolutely dependent on the learners seeing something you cannot simply describe in words?
2) If NO (your content does not require visuals), then what are you trying to achieve with the slides? But right now, I'm too slow and clumsy and don't present often enough to ever get that good, so I choose (most of the time) the path of interaction. And although I haven't read it yet, I reckon Cliff Atkinson's book is probably quite good, because his Beyond Bullets blog on this is great. Excellent billet de Creating Passionate Users, sur l'omnipresence nefaste des PowerPoint dans les presentations. Powerpoint is a big part of my life right now as Keith and I get out there and discuss edgeio with investors, potential employees (we have 4 now) and others.
Over at Creating Passionate Users posted up a very interesting topic on Stop your presentation before it kills again!. A significant portion of your grade in this class will be based on how well you present your work.
PowerPoint is like a drug--one becomes dependent on it because it's so easy to make something that looks better than chalk on a board. My biggest complaints against using slides (or just about anything else that requires screen projection) is that it dramatically increases the chance of having a one-way broadcast rather than a two-way interactive conversation.
I'm for conversation and interactivity and participation -- the things that slides usually make more difficult.
So no, I don't believe PowerPoint -- or any other slide or visual presentation tool -- is inherently bad. I don't blame the tool, but I *do* blame the current wisdom that says talks must have slides. And, include extra-presentation material too: exercises, small-group break-outs, and structured discussions. Before there were presentations, there were conversations, which were a little like presentations but used fewer bullet points, and no one had to dim the lights. PowerPoint, which can be found on two hundred and fifty million computers around the world, is software you impose on other people. It's easy to avoid these extreme templates-many people do-as well as embellishments like clip art, animations, and sound effects. Because PowerPoint can be an impressive antidote to fear-converting public-speaking dread into moviemaking pleasure-there seems to be no great impulse to fight this influence, as you might fight the unrelenting animated paperclip in Microsoft Word. Today, after Microsoft's decade of dizzying growth, there are great tracts of corporate America where to appear at a meeting without PowerPoint would be unwelcome and vaguely pretentious, like wearing no shoes.
In 1980, though, it was clear that a future of widespread personal computers-and laser printers and screens that showed the very thing you were about to print-was tantalizingly close.
Bob is Bob Gaskins, the man who has to take final responsibility for the drawn blinds of high-rise offices around the world and the bullet points dashing across computer screens inside.
Gaskins is a precise, bookish man who lives with his wife in a meticulously restored and furnished nineteenth-century house in the Fillmore district of San Francisco.
PowerPoint 1.0 went on sale in April, 1987-available only for the Macintosh, and only in black-and-white. PowerPoint had been created, in part, as a response to the new corporate world of interdepartmental communication. Cathleen Belleville, a former graphic designer who worked at PowerPoint as a product planner from 1989 to 1995, was amazed to see a clip-art series she had created become modern business icons. According to Microsoft estimates, at least thirty million PowerPoint presentations are made every day. Still, it's hard to be perfectly comfortable with a product whose developers occasionally find themselves trying to suppress its use.
In the glow of a PowerPoint show, the world is condensed, simplified, and smoothed over--yet bright and hyperreal--like the cityscape background in a PlayStation motor race. Clifford Nass has an office overlooking the Oval lawn at Stanford, a university where the use of PowerPoint is so widespread that to refrain from using it is sometimes seen as a mark of seniority and privilege, like egg on one's tie. We're always stucked in those rules how to present our ideas to sleepy audience, I prefer comunicating with critical and key person to let useful info. Late to the party and probably lost under Ian's verbal diarrhea, but this post from Guy Kawasaki is excellent. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. It's hard to be interactive when you're behind your laptop, at a podium, watching your slides on the small screen.

Although some can do it, most presenters (including me) aren't capable of dynamically reconfiguring their slides to customize in realtime for a particular audience. But I am applying what we've learned over the years about the brain and learning, so this isn't just a wild guess either. They can dynamically shift between "lights dimmed slide mode" and "lights up, let's talk" mode without blinking.
But when I do need slides, I know exactly who I'm looking to for help-- I love the guys at Missing Link! And Seth Godin, as always, has good and strong advice (no more than 6, yes 6, words per slide!) And if you're displaying critical data, for the love of all that's good and right in the world, follow Tufte's advice unless you're a skilled information designer. I have long advocated the powerpoint and other linear presentation forms stifle the creativity of a presenter and hide the real messages. It has some flaws (as does most software), but I reckon the thing that hurts it the most is the use of templates. I taught people public speaking for years and whenever the subject of powerpoint came up I made the same point: The audience can listen to you or examine what is on the slide. However, handled right, and by a gifted artistic designer, the slides can be a delight--nary a bullet point in sight.
Anything that keeps the lights dimmed (although this isn't always the case with the right lighting and equipment, of course), and the presenter separated from the participants and tied to a script *can* (not always) be a bad thing.
If the presenter needs help with public speaking or teaching skills, that won't be fixed with slides, but will most likely be *hurt* by slides as the presenter stays behind the protective barrier and might as well have pre-recorded the talk alone in a studio. The default should be *no slides*, where slides are used only when necessary and appropriate and to add value. It's not about PowerPoint, but about visuals and worth the very short time it takes to read it. Certainly there's best and worst practices, but getting rid of PowerPoint is pretty unlikely to address issues that you list. A woman we can call Sarah Wyndham, a defense-industry consultant living in Alexandria, Virginia, recently began to feel that her two daughters weren't listening when she asked them to clean their bedrooms and do their chores. Soon she had eighteen pages of large type, supplemented by a color photograph of a generic happy family riding bicycles, and, on the final page, a drawing key-the key to success. It allows you to arrange text and graphics in a series of pages, which you can project, slide by slide, from a laptop computer onto a screen, or print as a booklet (as Sarah Wyndham did).
Rather, PowerPoint's restraints seem to be soothing-so much so that where Microsoft has not written rules, businesses write them for themselves. In darkened rooms at industrial plants and ad agencies, at sales pitches and conferences, this is how people are communicating: no paragraphs, no pronouns-the world condensed into a few upbeat slides, with seven or so words on a line, seven or so lines on a slide. By the early nineteen-eighties, when the story of PowerPoint starts, employees had to find ways to talk to colleagues from other departments, colleagues who spoke a different language, brought together by SpaghettiOs and by the simple fact that technology was generating more information. In the Mountain View, California, laboratory of Bell-Northern Research, computer-research scientists had set up a great mainframe computer, a graphics workstation, a phototypesetter, and the earliest Canon laser printer, which was the size of a bathtub and took six men to carry into the building-together, a cumbersome approximation of what would later fit on a coffee table and cost a thousand dollars. A mathematician, a former peacenik, and an enemy of exclusive government control of encryption systems, Diffie had secured a place for himself in computing legend in 1976, when he and a colleague, Martin Hellman, announced the discovery of a new method of protecting secrets electronically-public-key cryptography. It generated text-and-graphics pages that a photocopier could turn into overhead transparencies.
Now rich from Microsoft stock, and beginning the concertina-collecting phase of their careers, they watched as their old product made its way into the heart of American business culture.
Jolene Rocchio, who is a product planner for Microsoft Office (and is upbeat about PowerPoint in general,) told me that, at a recent meeting of a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, she argued against a speaker's using PowerPoint at a future conference.
The move might have been driven, in part, by Sun's public-relations needs as a Microsoft rival, but, according to McNealy, there were genuine productivity issues.
But it's possible that those speakers should be making other, more important decisions. According to Cialdini, when Andrew was PowerPointed, viewers saw him as a greater potential asset to the football team.
According to Nass, PowerPoint empowers the provider of simple content (and that was the task Bob Gaskins originally set for it), but it risks squeezing out the provider of process--that is to say, the rhetorician, the storyteller, the poet, the person whose thoughts cannot be arranged in the shape of an AutoContent slide. So the speaker just forges on, slide after slide, saying what's already ON the slide, regardless of what he learned about the group. They send out the slide templates, then start demanding your slides several weeks before the show. But bullet points are still the prevailing content of most slides, and they usually add nothing unless the speaker truly sucks, or has such a dramatically hard-to-parse accent that it's the only way you can get the info. They don't let the slides constrain them to a script, and they don't let the slide equipment keep them trapped behind the invisible wall that separates them from the participants. And I cannot believe the beginner mistakes some of the presenters are making here at VSLive. If the slide doesn't add new information then the only thing it will do is distract from what you are saying. Or sometimes the forum is simply too large to have any meaningful form of interaction anyway. The usual metaphor for everyday software is the tool, but that doesn't seem to be right here. It is, almost surreptitiously, a business manual as well as a business suit, with an opinion-an oddly pedantic, prescriptive opinion-about the way we should think. And now it's happening during sermons and university lectures and family arguments, too. A manager might make an appearance-acting as an interpreter, a bridge to the rest of the company-but no one from the marketing or production or sales department would be there.

There was more to know and, as the notion of a job for life eroded, more reason to know it. With much trial and error, and jogging from one room to another, you could use this collection of machines as a kind of word processor.
I recently had lunch with him in Palo Alto, and for the first time he publicly acknowledged his presence at the birth of PowerPoint. After a trademark problem, and an epiphany Gaskins had in the shower, Presenter became PowerPoint. And so perhaps it was inevitable that it would migrate out of business and into other areas of our lives.
The classes I remember most, the professors I remember most, were the ones where you could watch how they thought. Put the projector in the closet, roll the screen back up, and turn the damn lights back on! Then again, asking the attendees for feedback is dangerous when you're following a script, since it's tough to really incorporate anything they say. The experience was so upsetting to her children that the threat of a second showing was enough to make one of the Wyndham girls burst into tears. It helps you make a case, but it also makes its own case: about how to organize information, how much information to organize, how to look at the world.
Somebody might have gone to the trouble of cranking out mimeographs-that would be the person with purple fingers.
Overheads, which were developed in the mid-forties for use by the police, and were then widely used in bowling alleys and schools, did not fully enter business life until the mid seventies, when a transparency film that could survive the heat of a photocopier became available. I recently spoke to Sew Meng Chung, a Malaysian research engineer living in Singapore who got married in 1999. And PowerPoint demands at least some rudimentary preparation: a PowerPoint presenter is, by definition, not thinking about his or her material for the very first time.
Those in the third group were given a PowerPoint presentation, in which animated bar graphs grew before their eyes. But, before embarking on any of that, Professor Nass was a professional magician-Cliff Conjure-so he has some confidence in his abilities as a public performer.
In 1982, he returned for a six-month overseas business trip and, with a vivid sense of the future impact of the Apple Macintosh and of Microsoft's Windows (both of which were in development), he wrote a list of fifty commercial possibilities-Arabic typesetting, menus, signs.
AutoContent was added in the mid-nineties, when Microsoft learned that some would-be presenters were uncomfortable with a blank PowerPoint page-it was hard to get started. Belleville herself has seen her Beans all over the world, reprinted on baseball caps, blown up fifteen feet high in a Hamburg bank.
He told me that, as his guests took their seats for a wedding party in the Goodwood Park Hotel, they were treated to a PowerPoint presentation: a hundred and thirty photographs-one fading into the next every four or five seconds, to musical accompaniment. It would be much more efficient to offload that work onto someone who could do it in a tenth of the time, and be paid less.
The experiment was repeated, with three groups of sports fans that were accustomed to digesting sports statistics; this time, the first two groups gave Andrew the same rating. Overheads were cheaper than the popular alternative, the 35-mm slide (which needed graphics professionals), and they were easier to use. This is not of great consequence to Diffie, whose reputation in his own field is so high that he is one of the few computer scientists to receive erotically charged fan mail. Eventually, he abandoned the attempt, and instead of a lecture, he gave his students a recommendation.
It is by definition a social instrument, turning middle managers into bullet-point dandies. Diffie expanded it so that the page could show a number of frames, and text inside each frame, with space for commentary around them.
Microsoft paid cash and allowed Bob Gaskins and his colleagues to remain partly self-governing in Silicon Valley, far from the Microsoft campus, in Redmond, Washington. He told them it was a good book, urged them to read it, and moved on to the next bullet point. A businessman couldn't generate a handsome, professional-looking font in his own office.
In other words, he produced a storyboard-a slide show on paper-that could be sent to the designers who made up the slides, and that would also serve as a script for his lecture. Microsoft soon regretted the terms of the deal; PowerPoint workers became known for a troublesome independence of spirit (and for rewarding themselves, now and then, with beautifully staged parties-caviar, string quartets, Renaissance-period fancy dress).
But Microsoft took the idea and kept the name-a rare example of a product named in outright mockery of its target customers. Enormously elaborate PowerPoint files (generated by presentation-obsessives--so- called PowerPoint Rangers) were said to be clogging up the military's bandwidth.
PowerPoint seems to be a way for organizations to turn expensive, expert decision-makers into novice decision-makers. He always preferred to use slides when he spoke to business groups, but one high-tech company recently hinted that his authority suffered as a result.

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