The origins of Power Point were solidly grounded in good intentions. Remember slides? People put pictures on them, or graphs — visual aids. They were intended to act as accompaniments to lectures and presentations.
The whole idea was that the speaker would talk for a while, and then occasionally show a slide that illustrated a point with a picture or a striking image, or made a set of numbers clear with a bar graph or a pie chart.
Slides were time-consuming to create, and difficult to change. So most people used them sparingly. I once saw a speech by a National Geographic photographer that included a hundred slides, but each one was a uniquely wonderful picture he had culled from thousands, literally. He was entitled.
Then came Power Point. People soon got the hang of creating slides; they were easy to make using this software, and easy to change.
And somewhere along the line, Power Point ‘decks’ ceased being illustrative information to accompany talks. They became speaker outlines.
Now we watch in horrified fascination as a speaker plods through every word on slide after slide with 20 lines or more of text on them. We wonder, as our consciousness slowly ebbs, ‘will he read every word, or will he occasionally vary the words slightly?’
And we have the Power Point Triangle of Death, where the speaker moves to the screen to point out some illegible word, drifts back to his computer, while mumbling something about the next slide, only to come to the third point of the triangle floating somewhere uneasily in between his screen position and his computer position.
None of these moves has anything to do with the audience, communicating with whom is after all the purpose of the talk, isn’t it?
Thus, Power Point, in the hands of most business speakers, commits the fatal sin of at once making the speaker and his talk irrelevant to the audience.
If you’re a Power Point abuser – and more than one slide every 5 minutes qualifies you – then don’t bother to gather the audience together. Just email them your ‘deck’ and save everyone a lot of trouble.