The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan at the time, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul a few years ago that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.
You can see the slide McChrystal referred to above, click on the image to see a larger, but equally confusing, version. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You can read more about PowerPoint in Iraq and Afghanistan in a New York Times article by Elisabeth Bumiller at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html.
I sometimes feel the same when at genealogy conferences. Presenter after presenter steps to the podium, fires up a computer and projector, and proceeds to display PowerPoint slides. Some of the presentations are very well done but many of them are not. Some of them are downright boring.
I have seen presentation after presentation where the speaker simply crams the PowerPoint slides full of text, often in a very small font that is not readable by anyone beyond the second row. Here's a word to speakers: Do your audience a favor! Read a PowerPoint tutorial or two! There are dozens of such tutorials on the web, starting at http://goo.gl/y81tQX. I'd suggest you read several of them.
Then again, why use PowerPoint? Or, even a better question, why do we emulate old-fashioned overhead transparencies, or "slides," anyway? Certainly we don't need $2,000 worth of hardware and software to emulate old-fashioned 35-cent transparencies!
NOTE: You can find a number of other presentation programs, such as OpenOffice Impress, Google Presentations (part of Google Docs), Zoho Show, ThinkFree, Keynote (a Macintosh presentation program), and others. However, all of these are more or less clones of PowerPoint; all of them create "electronic slide shows" and little else.
There must be a better way to present information to an audience. Do we really need slides?
In fact, there is a better way. I have made a number of presentations using a new product that is better than PowerPoint in some ways, although perhaps not better in every way. I projected accompanying information onto the screen in the conference room. I didn't use PowerPoint or any of the other products mentioned. In fact, I didn't even present "electronic slides." Instead, I used a free, slideless product that provides an interesting alternative to "electronic slides."
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