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Jesus Creed

Arguments against PowerPoint #1

I have never learned how to do PowerPoint. Not sure what you think of PowerPoint, but here’s the number one reason why not to use PowerPoint (click on it to make it larger). NYTimes has this article, from which location this image comes…

What are you reasons?
What are the basic guidelines for using PowerPoint?
What is the biggest thing to avoid?
Comments read comments(42)
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posted April 30, 2010 at 8:13 am

This quote from the article expresses my thoughts on PP well:
?It?s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,? General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. ?Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.?

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posted April 30, 2010 at 8:14 am

Matt K

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:23 am

Powerpoint, when used with some propriety, can be an effective tool. Unfortunately, too often it becomes a crutch for the presenter. Here are my “deadly sins” of powerpoint:
–Unnecessary Animations. They are distracting and slow down the presentation.
–Too much text. I’d rather be given an article or book to read than read from the screen. Bullet points need to be brief. Graphics are the strength of power point, but even then graphs should not be over simplistic. I don’t need a pie chart to tell me that 58% of people like something and 42% don’t.
–The presenter reads directly from the presentation. Nothing makes me say “waste of time” more than this. I can read. If all you’re going to do is read to me, save me the trip and email me the document.
Powerpoint should compliment a presentation, not dominate it.

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Chuck Eklund

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:29 am
This is aimed at people giving pitches to venture capitalists, but has good advice anyway.

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Keith Bailey

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:29 am

I stopped using it because I felt like I was giving a lecture rather than preaching a sermon

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Jeff Stewart

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

Hey! That’s one those dispensational charts. I think this looks to be “3/4-trib.”

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posted April 30, 2010 at 8:45 am

I don’t use PP in my sermons. Perhaps because my church doesn’t have the AV equipment for it, but I’m still not sure I would use it if we did. I do use it teaching my college classes, however. In part, I use it to avoid having to repeat myself, and in part to highlight what is important. I also use images associated with the main points because many of my students are “visual learners,” and it allows me to show good artwork associated with the biblical stories. The drawback I have found so far is that many students stop taking notes or write down only what is on the PP slide rather than paying attention to the information around the points. Another drawback is that it is time consuming to prepare, esp. when a normal load is 4 classes a semester. So, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to use it.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 8:48 am

Well my reasons are simple…
I use powerpoint as a valuable tool in both teaching and scholarly presentation. It allows the integration of various forms of presentation, from movie clips to graphs and picture, to live equations with variable parameters within the framework of a presentation.
My ideal classroom would have ample board space (blackboard not white board) and a projector.
My biggest complaint is that in the rush to integrate projection capability blackboard space has diminished and/or been covered.

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John Losey

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:05 am

How not to use powerpoint would have been a better title. The funny thing is the point of the mindmap image was to convey the complexity of the situation not the plan itself. It did it in a powerful and funny way. Bullet points, spreadsheet and big blocks of text create the death by powerpoint situation. Simple, powerful images with well chosen (and limited) text can boost the power of your (not the program’s) presentation. Chech out Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

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posted April 30, 2010 at 9:11 am

I agree with RJS (#8). For some scholarly presentations involving graphical representation of empirical data, I think Powerpoint is a must.
I’ve also seen it used both effectively and ineffectively in sermons. Used ineffectively, it is just a collector of bullet-points and proof texts. Used effectively, the preacher can put up some visual aids like a photo of a historical site, a bit or art that relates to the theme, or a key word or phrase from a passage.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

Jeff (#6) — who knew! When Luke 21:27 says the son of man will come on a cloud, it’s talking about cloud computing!

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nick gill

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

LOL dopderbeck! that’s great!
I agree with Matt K above (#3): The PowerPoint must SERVE the sermon rather than competing with the sermon.
The greatest advantages PP offers, IMO, is images and the ability to project Scripture so that your listeners don’t have to break their concentration to go citation-tracking in their Bibles.
But images are the biggie – my preaching PowerPoints are 90% images / 10% text. Finding artwork and images to complement the message is an excellent way to enhance communication.

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Bob Young

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

You can’t blame PowerPoint for lousy presentations; that’s like blaming the Bible for lousy sermons. It’s a matter of using it as it was intended to be used. PowerPoint can be and has been used effectively.
Obviously, overly-complex graphics like the absurd one in the picture, are unhelpful (using PowerPoint or anything other medium).
Displaying the entire text and having a presenter merely read it aloud for everyone (as though they can’t read all by themselves) is also a misuse of this tool.
At its best, PowerPoint is good for displaying simple, helpful, understandable graphics, and for listing “memory joggers” (bullets or not) for the sake of the presenter (much like an outline on a 3×5 card, which is equally amoral).
All that said… I also use it to create graphics and liner note layouts for my band’s CDs… but I’m not displaying those on a data projector for my church!

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Clint W

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

I’m a big fan of the minimalistic Powerpoint style often used by law professor Larry Lessig in a number of his presentations and lectures I’ve watched online.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 9:32 am

John Losey, #9, already said everything I would say, so if you haven’t read his comment yet, you should.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 9:37 am

Seth Godin wrote about this yesterday and linked to some previous advice of his. The problem is not PPT, it is poor use of PPT. Not all of these lend themselves to the use of PPT in a worship setting, but most do.
1.No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
2.No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
3.No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
4.Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you?ve kept them from falling asleep, and you?ve reminded them that this isn?t a typical meeting you?re running.
5.Don?t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don?t work without you there.
His closing line: Guns don’t kill people; bullets kill people.

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Jeff Doles

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

Seth Godin had an interesting blog the other day on the problems of Power Point: “‘Powerpoint makes us stupid’–these bullets can kill.”

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posted April 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

Bob Young is correct when he says “You can’t blame PowerPoint for lousy presentations; that’s like blaming the Bible for lousy sermons.” So how do we learn to use PowerPoint better? I would recommend Oliva Mitchell’s site to start:
In short, some of the best practices include:
? State your objectives in a simple, clear opening statement
? Short text assertions with supporting pictures or graphics make the most impact
? Use 2D graphs with cool colors and high contrast
? Handouts lend credibility to your presentation
? Be consistent in your use of typefaces
Some of the worst practices include:
? Reading slides to the audience
? Using text too small to be easily read
? Long or wordy sentences or constant use of bulleted points
? Requiring people to copy text verbatim
? Making poor color choices that make slides hard to see
? Using moving or flying text or graphics
? Interjecting annoying sounds
? Projecting complex diagrams or charts.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:06 am

I think PP is useful when conveying quantitative data. We’ve used if in budget and financial analysis. You can use a pointer to make sure everyone is looking at the same data. I think presentations of complex empirical reports like RJS and David mentioned are enhanced with PP.
In a worship service, I think the kind of thing that works best is an opening graphic. Then about three or four more graphics that may or may not contain text that help emphasize key points you want to make, followed by a closing graphic. I find that too much text to read interferes with my ability to listen. But an appropriate image sometimes enhances my listening.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 10:24 am

I would NEVER use PowerPoint. Instead, I go with the far superior Keynote . . . by Apple.
Otherwise I agree with much of what has already been said; keeping it simple and clean, and knowing the pitfalls to avoid in making solid presentations happen. (And LOSE the transition effects!!!)

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posted April 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

I like PowerPoint, but I like playing around in graphics programs. It has its limitations though, so based on what a person is trying to do, they might be better off with another program. Like the diagram above, the person might have gotten better results using something like Visio. The key is simplicity. If you can’t avoid a complicated drawing or schema, there are better programs out there defined specifically for that purpose.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 10:30 am

Biggest thing to avoid?
Multiple slides with nothing but bullet pointed lists.
But all of the rules above have exceptions.
No reason ever for more than six words – dumb rule.
Don’t use moving text, fades or transitions – dumb rule
No cheesy images – dumb rule
No bullet lists – dumb rule
All of these things have proper use in proper context. The real issue is using the tool to achieve the desired goal.
No one (almost without exception) gives a presentation at a scientific conference these days without ppt or similar (Keynote is almost enough to push me to apple — if only they would come out with a real tablet computer).
A good ppt lecture requires a great deal of effort – fortunately it is almost never a one-off presentation. Classes are taught more than once, similar talks are given in many different venues.

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Bob Arnet

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:59 am

Looks very similar to charts we had to attempt to digest during the restructuring meetings focusing on student test score improvement. Ever wonder why teachers get frustrated? Attend a few of these meetings.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 11:14 am

Actually I could swear it is a chart dealing with the complexity of the science – faith discussion.
Population Conditions & Beliefs
Popular Support
Outside support to insurgent factions
Tribal governance
Coalition capacity and priorities

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posted April 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Is there a better way to present complex data than with graphics?
The argument against using PowerPoint (or similar programs) is like blaming a television set for the trash it displays.

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Travis Greene

posted April 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Yeah, it’s not Powerpoint. It’s the amateurish use of Powerpoint.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

A side dimension of the PPT discussion is the “Gee Whiz” factor, also known as the “I can, therefore I must” ethic of PPT design.
To wit, just because I can make the words bounce in one letter at a time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The same is true for different transitions from slide to slide. Choose a simple one such as fade and use it consistently.
I have found that PPT can be a helpful tool in facilitating corporate worship. It can also be a huge impediment. And Travis and Shelton (25 and 26) have summarized it very well.
Good, professional use will look different if we’re talking about a University lecture, a worship setting, a corporate meeting…
Lastly, as I hope we all understand, I am sure the graphic was intended to be a joke all along…

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posted April 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm

My first job at a large aerospace firm was “Chart Clerk”–since I had a degree in art i was deemed qualified to make charts for presentations.–we made these charts the old fashioned way–before computers and before Powerpoint. I had already moved into a new position when Powerpoint came on the scene and did away with my old job altogether. That said-I love Powerpoint-I love using Powerpoint to visually support what I’m trying to say. Some people need a picture to help them understand the story. I agree with everyone above about how Powerpoint can be done wrong–but as an artist I can’t talk without some kind of visual.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm

What I don’t like in churches is the idea that PowerPoint is an essential component of a cutting edge ministry. That kind of attitude puts the emphasis too much on the packaging.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I was a government employee for a few years and the best definition of bureaucracy I have is when the form the information is in becomes more important than the information. PPT can be evil when it obfuscates bureaucracy and people can?t tell.

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Wolf Paul

posted April 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm

While I agree with all the comments decrying poor use of the tool (if all a presenter does is read what’s on the slide, why not just hand me a printout of the slides and save the drone), I want to add a comment in defense of the graphic used to illustrate this post.
Of course if anyone expects that having shown this slide, everyone present understands what’s on it, they’d be a fool. But given that there are probably diagrams like this mapping complex situations on paper, quite apart from PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Presentation, or whichever program people are using), if the audience has printed copies, ideally with sections enlarged on separate pages, having the diagram on the screen allows the presenter to draw people’s attention to specific parts much more easily and accurately than simply saying “in the top right corner” of “two thirds down the left side and in one inch”
So it all depends what use is being made of even complex slides like this, and the problem is less with the tool and more with the user.
Which is true with many problems blamed on computers — PEBCAK is the motto — problem exists between chair and keyboard.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Here is a great video on how not to use powerpoint:
I generally use powerpoint as a visual aid, capturing a single key word or graphic. Occasionally I will put a quote or scripture on PPT, but I prefer to keep it as simple as possible. Esp if there is a handout, there is no need to reiterate the outline on powerpoint.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

powerpoint has spell check.

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Brian in NZ

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

PP is great for continuous loop style presentations which are often used at trade shows to present product information. I have made presentations for our whole product line, then pick slides to match the trade show focus. Works very well.
Scott, the example you showed in the intro says more about the mind of the person creating the PP slide than it does about the content or the strength or weakness of PP.

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chad m

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

in Brain Rules, Medina says that PowerPoint isn’t necessarily the problem; in fact, we all know that some people learn better if there are images that reinforce the message. images are powerful, duh! the problem, Medina says, is that the average PP presentation has over 40 words PER SLIDE. yuck! i don’t know where he got that stat, but that it ridiculous!
in preaching and teaching i use PP for 2 reasons: 1) Reinforce ideas, concepts through images 2) Display quotes from outside sources so listeners have more time to process the info
from my years as students and sitting for 4 years in a church that uses PP for sermons, here are some things i can’t stand: 1) Reading off the screen 2) Animation [fly ins, moving objects, etc] 3) Crazy colors or fonts that aren’t consistent throughout the presentation 4) images of people i don’t know or images that are just plain silly

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Chad H

posted April 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I am pretty sure that the image shown *using* PowerPoint was not created *in* PowerPoint. Much more likely created using a mindmap software, saved to image and inserted into a PPT presentation.
At any rate, I’ve seen guys like Len Sweet and Ron Martoia and Brian McLaren really do a great job of using PPT (and/or mindmapping apps) to compliment their presentations. I’ve also see too much of what Chad M (#35) describes — some people just aren’t creative enough to use visual presentation apps, IMO.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 4:34 pm

re: using .ppt in corporate worship
I’d like to point out that for people attending a church service (or anything else) not in their first language, it is *so* helpful to receive multi-channel (i.e. audio + visual) communication. Having some of the points written out (word-for-word leads to .ppt grossness, but having key words or an outline on a slide is good) or having graphics that complement what is being said aids greatly in comprehension.

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posted April 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Tom Barnett is a guy who does a great job of making PowerPoint an effective tool that enhances a presentation, rather than distracting from it. The bottom line remains, however; if you’re a lousy presenter, PowerPoint isn’t going to save you.

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Michael Flowers

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:11 pm

What are you reasons?
I don’t use PP because
– its not scriptural!
– its worldly – :-(
– its how the beast trains his converts!
What are the basic guidelines for using PowerPoint?
– when you’re out of town and need to be an expert
– only with a hand-held clicker
What is the biggest thing to avoid?
– religious clip art
OK, I use PP and love it!

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Jim Martin

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I do use PowerPoint.
*I avoid excessive text
*I often use it to help people remember a key idea
*I want to make sure that the PowerPoint compliments the sermon, rather than it overpowering the sermon
I have seen presentations where it was so text heavy that it was more of a distraction than anything else.

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Danny Zacharias

posted May 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

For a Mac user like yourself Scot, it is a sin to use powerpoint anyway. Apple’s Keynote is what you should be using.

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Tamara Dull

posted May 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

Great discussion. I think many of the tips and points made so far apply to presentation software in general, and not specifically to PowerPoint. It seems that the term “PowerPoint” has become the “Kleenex” of presentation software.
A few more points I’d like to add:
* I often see folks confuse the usage of MS PowerPoint with MS Word. They deliver final “documents” with PowerPoint instead of using PowerPoint to present the key points from a MS Word document. This may happen more in the corporate space; I’m not sure.
* For personal use, I use Apple’s Keynote. It’s slick and it helps you not hurt yourself (or others) as much as PowerPoint does.
* For corporate use, the standard for me has always been MS Office. Given that, I’ve used PowerPoint 2007 extensively – and I have to admit, MS did a really good job with this version. It is much improved over previous releases.
* The three “experts” I follow in this space are: Nancy Duarte – “Slide:ology”; Garr Reynolds – “Presentation Zen” and “Presentation Zen Design”; and Cliff Atkinson – “Beyond Bullet Points: MS PowerPoint 2007.” Nancy and Garr often present together and focus more on the design aspect with a lot of visual examples. Cliff gives you the tools to develop your “story” – Hollywood-style – using PowerPoint.

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