I really wanted to disagree with Tufte here. I wanted to end the readings with a verbal asskicking in presenting and why Tufte is being a posh “ooooo, look at me and my abstract thoughts!” jerk.
But I can’t.
Well, yes I can, a little bit. I disagree with his point of Powerpoint being a wash (he credits 10% of people for using it correctly). However, if you’ve ever been in a class with mandatory presentations (here’s a hint: you’re in one now), you’ve suffered through presentation nightmares.
The point where I disagree with Tufte: Powerpoint is a tool that is overused and under-utilized.
What I mean by that is it’s a great tool to aid a discussion and connect ideas in and guide a presentation. But what many people miss is that “aid” part and turn their Powerpoint into a group read-along with lots of clipart and colours.
I break down presentations into these genres:
The Reader: A person who uses Powerpoint as a way to read their notes. Everything they say is read verbatim to what is on the slide.
The Cliparter: This person doesn’t know how to handle negative space. They need to fill their Powerpoint with pictures because they feel no Powerpoint is complete without them. Hopefully, the images kind of tie-in. Usually clipart because Stock Images are expensive.
The Inconsistent: This presenter wants you to know that they have a lot of different fonts, colours, and backgrounds they can use. However, they think you might disagree, so they prove it to you without asking. One slide is solid yellow with orange text, the next is a nice picture from the time they went to the beach.
The Animator: “I AM GONNA RAZZLEDAZZLE THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR BRAIN WITH ALL THESE DIFFERENT SLIDE TRANSITIONS AND ANIMATIONS VARYING IN LENGTH AND STYLE!”
Mr./Mrs./Miss Sound Effects: Realizing that you can add music and sound effects, this presenter decides to use these to their great (dis)advantage. Usually for atmosphere or comic relief, this type of presenter just doesn’t get it.
The Dependent: This person uses a minimal style without substance. In these presentations, the slides act as cues for questions that the presenter then waits on the audience to answer. The slides serve no purpose, and usually lead to no answers.
The Professional: These presenters get it. They recognize that Powerpoint is one of many tools for communicating. They understand that the presentation really depends on the presenter. They’re probably dash handsome and have lots of boyfriends/girlfriends.
Tufte doesn’t completely condemn Powerpoint, but he nearly does. I don’t think a layout program (Indesign?) would help, rather I’d like to see classes on making good presentations. However, they need to be early on in the college career… for all of our sanity.
For an example of bad-powerpoints, here is a great one I found online (copy and paste this link): http://www.elmhurst.edu/~jacobh/WorstPresentationEverStandAlone.ppt