PowerPoint, used correctly, can help to make information more accessible. Used incorrectly, it is referred to as "death by PowerPoint." Whether PowerPoint is an asset to a presentation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the material to be presented as well as the presentation skills of the person presenting.
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Pro: Organizes Presentations
PowerPoint is a helpful tool for trainers and presenters, especially novices or individuals who tend to ramble without getting to the point. The bullet point format of many PowerPoint slides helps keep a presentation moving along, while ensuring that important information is covered. The slide format also helps to highlight key ideas that may then be discussed in more detail. Projected slides can help to make a presenter feel at ease as well -- gone are the days when presenters had to memorise every bit of their presentation or use written notes.
Pro: Adds to the Overall Presentation
People have different learning styles. While one person may learn quite well listening to a lecture, others need to see pictures or read text to grasp and remember the concepts. PowerPoint presentations that include video, animations, tables, charts and other visuals that illustrate information can be highly effective. Non-native English speakers also often appreciate PowerPoint presentations, as seeing the words in addition to hearing them can increase comprehension and assist with note taking.
Con: Audience Boredom
All too often, PowerPoint slides become the presentation itself while the presenter merely reads the information provided on the slides. Since most audiences are literate, this is boring and patronising. "Wired Magazine" writer Edward Tufte points out that it violates the most important public speaking rule -- respect for the audience. Even worse, some presenters give the audience a handout of the slides before the presentation, which the audience then proceeds to finish reading before the session is complete. To be effective, use PowerPoint slides to reinforce information that the presenter is giving -- not provide all of the information verbatim.
PowerPoint is not appropriate for all types of information, which became clear when General Stanley A. McChrystal saw a slide dealing with American military strategy that "resembled a bowl of spaghetti," according to the "New York Times." He famously remarked in April 2010, "When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war." PowerPoint should be used only to highlight main points in complex presentations, or should not be used at all. A PowerPoint presentation is only as organised and concise as the mind of the person who prepares it.
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