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Physics Forum At Fermilab Bans Powerpoint 181

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the powerpoint-considered-harmful dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Amanda Solliday reports at Symmetry that six months ago, organizers of a biweekly forum on Large Hadron Collider physics at Fermilab banned PowerPoint presentations in favor of old-fashioned, chalkboard-style talks. 'Without slides, the participants go further off-script, with more interaction and curiosity,' says Andrew Askew. 'We wanted to draw out the importance of the audience.' In one recent meeting, physics professor John Paul Chou of Rutgers University presented to a full room holding a single page of handwritten notes and a marker. The talk became more dialogue than monologue as members of the audience, freed from their usual need to follow a series of information-stuffed slides flying by at top speed, managed to interrupt with questions and comments. Elliot Hughes, a Rutgers University doctoral student and a participant in the forum, says the ban on slides has encouraged the physicists to connect with their audience. 'Frequently, in physics, presenters design slides for people who didn't even listen to the talk in the first place,' says Hughes. 'In my experience, the best talks could not possibly be fully understood without the speaker.'"
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Physics Forum At Fermilab Bans Powerpoint

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:10AM (#46427801)
    I always get much more out of a lecture if the instructor is actively diagramming on the blackboard. Maybe I'm old fashioned.
    • I always get much more out of a lecture if the instructor is actively diagramming on the blackboard. Maybe I'm old fashioned.

      Yes. But why hand out slides? Why have slides at all? You've already learned more than the slides contain; what will slides add?

      If you like notes, you were taking notes during the talk - which are more useful than slides would be.

      • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:28AM (#46427927) Homepage

        But... but... explain to me how you can get a chalk board or white board to go "whooooooosh" when you go on to the next set of bullet points! I don't know about you but if it doesn't go "whooooooosh" I've lost everything salient and important about what you've presented. Oh ya one other thing... how do you get neat visual effects like folds and crinkly dissolves to happen with a chalk board or white board?

      • If the only recorded information is your own notes, then you need to either stenograph the talk with no time to digest (which leaves you with the same problem as the information-filled slides did, plus finger cramps), or risk missing something important.

        I'll concur that slides are a very poor format for a handout, though, and senseless if you're not even projecting the slides during the talk. Just hand out the notes.

      • My memory has gotten considerably worse these past five years. I need something to take with me to stimulate my memory of the things I found important.

        I also find that, if I'm busy trying to take notes, the Extraneous Cognitive Load [wikipedia.org] ensures that I actually absorb less of the material.

        Bottom line: If I have pre-printed notes, highlights, outline, etc of the talk before it is given, I can relax and enjoy the lecture, interact with the instructor, and only add specific impressions by writing on the handout. I'

      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        Learning is not a one time listening session. When going to school you take notes so you can remember key items that are fuzzy or simply forgotten. It's well known that seeing something at a later time helps you remember parts of the presentation.

      • by spamking (967666)

        Yes. But why hand out slides? Why have slides at all? You've already learned more than the slides contain; what will slides add?

        If you like notes, you were taking notes during the talk - which are more useful than slides would be.

        I think most folks get more out of an interactive lecture than some death by powerpoint . . . However, providing the "slides" or whatever later can allow students/participants to compare their notes with the lecture content. I have been known to miss a few points throughout a lecture and not get them written down.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        > Yes. But why hand out slides? Why have slides at all? You've already learned more than the slides contain; what will slides add?

        In my experience, it's proof to your manager that you attended the lecture.

    • Showing Data (Score:5, Informative)

      by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday March 07, 2014 @04:22PM (#46430435) Journal

      I always get much more out of a lecture if the instructor is actively diagramming on the blackboard.

      That might be a valid argument for an undergraduate course, it might even work for a theory research presentation but it is not possible to accurately show experimental data without being able to show slides. Even in the days before video projectors we used acetate slides created by heat transfer from a photocopy or laser printout. You cannot just sketch a data plot on a blackboard and expect anyone to take it seriously.

  • by delt0r (999393) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:20AM (#46427849)
    For precisely this reason. It also means you go at a speed where students can pick up the material. Slides you just go too fast. Most of the students like it. The ones that don't show up at class, not so much.
    • by chihowa (366380) * on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:33AM (#46427979)

      The article is about research presentations and not classes, but I completely agree with you wrt classes. One compromise that I like is slides for complicated figures (that would take forever for you to draw, poorly, on the board) and handouts of those slides so that the students don't have to try to recreate them (again, poorly). Then everything else goes on the board while talking.

      As for research presentations, I love chalk talks (both giving and attending) and loathe powerpoint presentations. There's something about ppt that seems to make everybody check out.

      • One compromise that I like is slides for complicated figures (that would take forever for you to draw, poorly, on the board) and handouts of those slides so that the students don't have to try to recreate them (again, poorly).

        Indeed. I would even go so far as to say that this is not a compromise, but the actual, honest-to-goodness, correct use of slides in a presentation, and has been since the dawn of the slide projector. Complicated figures, photographs (of, say, an archaeological excavation or Civil War soldier), or the hypotheses of a theorem that you are planning to prove on the board are reasonable things to put on a slide, and are things that should be put up on the screen for reference. Lacking a projector, handouts a

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          In my work life, however, I'm finding MORE and more, all meetings are taking place online...with teleconference and software such as Live Meeting or the like with someone or multiple people taking turns sharing their desktops.

          You really almost have to have PP type slides there as that a chalk board really isn't a viable option there...

      • by mlts (1038732)

        My biggest issue with PowerPoint is that people have a tendency to toss too many slides in. After 100 slides, I'm flipping through what tripe people are sharing on Facebook on my phone, or just asleep, and hopefully don't get so far asleep I fall out of the chair.

        I appreciate chalk talks. It takes time to write one's ideas on a board and not just throw a canned presentation and click a mouse. Chalk talks are far more interactive and hold attention.

      • by gsslay (807818)

        Have to agree.

        I can fully appreciate the danger of "death by powerpoint". Some people really do sucky presentations that positively encourage viewers to switch off. If your presentation could be as well printed out, and taken home and read, then you're not doing it right.

        But sometimes when you are presenting a complex idea, that would take ages to draw, and you'd probably mess up or forget bits, you need something pre-prepared. And a bit of animation, etc, used sparingly in the right places, can really h

      • Many presenters do nothing more than read aloud the text on the screen. That adds zero value, for those of us who know how to read. I've been guilty of that myself a time or two, when I was forced to give a PowerPoint presentation and didn't have time to think about how I could add some value beyond the on-screen text.

        And then there are the times when a slide is full of small text, and the presenter moves on to the next slide before the audience has had a chance to read it all. If you didn't intend for u

    • Not a problem since you can get a copy off someone else's notebook.

      I have been in a lot of chalkboard classes where the teacher simply copied his hand notes to the board and accepted no questions at all during all the class. In fact I had a teacher who was like this the entire semester. If they have a lot in the program to teach you they won't slow down the pace to any humanly comprehensible pace at all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by delt0r (999393)
        Well we are given no credit for teaching. None. No matter how well or badly or how much of it we have to do. So you are simply going to get some crap teachers and teachers that just don't care. Your cutting into their research time, which we are evaluated on.

        For the record we try and make it quite interactive.
    • "powerpoint" is a brand name for a computer program that can make visual computer images & text

      **images & text**

      that's all powerpoint is...

      You are depriving students of a very effective communication channel b/c you don't know how to use it properly. I'm not saying TFA is "wrong" or that you personally are unprofessional...but **regressing to using ONLY CHALK is a problem of THE PRESENTER**

      Chalk-only is much more simplistic. Science types are typically horrible public speakers. Using something as *v

      • by delt0r (999393)
        You know i have won several best talks/presentations awards at some pretty big conferences. Sure i can use a computer to give a "great talk/whatever". But at what cost time wise? and for what? If after the 2 hours i have my students know and understand what they need to, how am i depriving them of anything.
        • You know i have won several best talks/presentations awards at some pretty big conferences.

          No, I didn't know that, but I made pains to say specifically in my post: " I'm not saying TFA is "wrong" or that you personally are unprofessional."....

          so...I continue my lamentations....srsly we need to be able to directly contradict each other without it being personal

          you ARE using a less complex communication channel when you go 'chalk-only'....and dude i'm old-school, for real....but it's arbitrary and re-inforce

      • You don't need PowerPoint. The fact that you haven't considered that is how limited your thinking is.
        • ok...

          We don't need to make an archane, arbitrary ban on all "powerpoint"...it's stupid for several reasons

          1. "powerpoint" is a software program...computer projectors can project any image, including **other presentation software** or a web browser...to ban one specific software is absolutely foolish, and to ban using all computer projection is moreso

          2. no one "needs" any piece of software or display equipment. they are all ****TOOLS FOR COMMUNICATION**** to be used as needed.

          3. the problem of "bad powerpoin

      • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Friday March 07, 2014 @01:14PM (#46428761)

        I could be wrong, but you seem to me to be operating from the premise that the only meaningful difference between communicating via chalkboard and communicating via PP is that PP is more featureful -- hence, referring to using a chalkboard as "regressing to using ONLY CHALK." I don't think that's true at all.

        What TFA is suggesting is that communicating by chalkboard has fundamental differences from communicating by PP, in the same way (if not to the same severity) that communicating by in-person lecture is fundamentally different from communicating by a video on YouTube. It's conceivable that you could eliminate some of those differences by using PP in a way similar to how one uses the chalkboard -- for example, by entering content into slides live, in front of your audience -- but it's not obvious to me that there's a gain to doing that.

        • What TFA is suggesting is that communicating by chalkboard **has fundamental differences** from communicating by PP, in the same way (if not to the same severity) that communicating by in-person lecture is fundamentally different from communicating by a video on YouTube

          right...you're in the ballpark but the comparisons are off-angle

          chalk-only (or whiteboard) vs ppt is the wrong context that causes confusion

          1. it's a false dichotomy...both can be used

          2. disctinction must be made between using a 'projected co

          • Let me put what I'm trying to say differently.

            Imagine that you're presenting an equation to an audience. Consider the following four ways that you might choose to present that equation:

            1. You could write it out in front of them on a chalkboard;
            2. You could type it into PP or some other display software, live, with the equation being displayed on a screen of some sort as you type it;
            3. You could type it into PP or some other display software in advance, and have the equation slowly revealed to the

  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:20AM (#46427855) Homepage

    My wife and I have communicated exclusively with PowerPoint slides for the past 21 years. A chalk board would just make a mess.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-feynman-tufte-princip/

    • by hubie (108345)
      Every time you make a Powerpoint, Edward Tufte kills a kitten
      • by idontgno (624372)

        But that's OK, it's an evil kitten and its death provides more material for future powerpoint slides.

        What... when you add a new slide to your powerpoint presentation, where do you think the bits and pixels come from? Evil kitten ectoplasm, that's where.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Incompatibility between versions, useless features (plots) and absolutely broken formatting issues means most scientists are using TeX -> PDF these days. I spend a lot of my time talking them through converting video to animated GIF because codecs are flagrantly nonstandard worldwide.

  • Hasn't chalk been banned by the TSA as a suspicious white powder?
  • Excellent - interaction with the audience is the key here, otherwise you may as well see any number of course videos online.

    I remember I think a previous Slashdot story, where the students were encouraged to read the presentation first (Word/Powerpoint whatever), and then in the lecture hall, the idea was to discuss and Q+A the professor. A far better use of time - more interesting and productive.
  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:31AM (#46427949) Homepage

    "The Military's Enemy Within: PowerPoint"

    http://www.newser.com/story/87... [newser.com]

    • by cusco (717999)

      I don't think that the Pentagon needed PowerPoint's help in becoming stupid.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:32AM (#46427967) Journal

    The bullet-point presentation was always about presenting evidence and alternatives for an executable decision. Classically, in a hierarchical organization where the receipients of the presentation are the functional leadership who are empowered to make and enforce operational decisions but expect their minions to gather "decision-grade information" and present it in a minimal-overhead, maximal-efficiency format.

    It was never about collaboration or exploration. It gets used like that, but it's a terrible fit. It was never intended to encourage discussion. A well-crafted slide deck ends all conversation because all the facts are in. If the leader has to ask questions, or another participant questions your facts or your conclusion, your presentation was sub-optimal.

    A bullet-point presentation is supposed to be the shortest path to an incontrovertible and non-debatable decision.

  • Powerpoint is good when the visual material you have is auxiliary. Usually, when the presenter is engaging and articulate, you end up not paying much attention to the slides. The slides then become like index cards for the speaker - they help with the design. They also help 'burn' the content into the audience by keeping points in their field of view long after they were covered verbally.

    Chalkboards/Whiteboards are the better choice when visual material is not a supplement but a component of the presentatio

    • You know none of that is true. More to the point it has been well documented that PowerPoint presentations convey less information, not more.
      • by gwstuff (2067112)

        Nice
        First sentence:"I'm right, period. I don't need to state an argument. Why should I, since everyone knows I'm right to begin with."
        Second sentence:"Building on the rigor of my first point consider this comparison involving an undetermined quantum of information, backed up by documentation too obvious to cite."

        • by idontgno (624372)

          I'd be more inclined to believe GPP if I saw all this material in a Powerpoint presentation. It just loses some of its credibility and impact without one of Microsoft's standard templates framing it.

  • These are freaking scientists; learning to use tex for scientific publishing is first-year undergrad stuff. How would you even draw something like a Feynman diagram in Powerpoint?

    • Perhaps by using this: http://tx.technion.ac.il/~zvik... [technion.ac.il]
      Also, by drawing it in a drawing program and saving it as an image (http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/fimg88.gif).

      Note: I am a scientist and use PowerPoint daily. There is a place for each goal:
      Giving a scientific talk at a conference (20 minute presentation, 10 minute Q/A) - PowerPoint
      Giving a project/program briefing of monthly activity - PowerPoint
      Giving a classroom presentation - PowerPoint

      It is a good format for one-way presenting. It is n

    1. I would like to present the results of [experiment].
    2. I would like to lead a group discussion about the implications of [novel hypothesis].
    3. I would like to teach you how to perform [new calculation].
    4. I would like to tell everyone how to comply with [complex new regulations].

    ...Are at least four very different communication tasks. Some are better accomplished with PowerPoint (or other similar presentation tools) than others. The way that a presenter uses those tools is likely to have a significantly greater impact on the effectiveness of the presentation than the presence or absence of those tools. Uses of the different presentation aids need not be mutually exclusive--PowerPoint decks, whiteboards, handouts, etc. can be used singly or in combination for best effect.

    Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I've been at very productive scientific meetings where someone puts up one or two slides of data and we spend the rest of the time in an open discussion around the whiteboard trying to figure out what it means (and which experiments should come next).

  • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:48AM (#46428109) Homepage Journal

    http://www.edwardtufte.com/tuf... [edwardtufte.com]

    I've read the booklet and I found it persuasive.

    Tufte (and iirc, Feynman) also cited reliance on Powerpoint on the Columbia disaster

    I think it's important to understand what powerpoint is good for. It is good for helping an average presenter guide the delivery of low-bandwidth information into a low-attention span audience who are not subject matter experts.

    In other words, it's good for 90% of the people, 90% of the time.

    If you are trying to send people to space, or create controlled black holes on the European mainland, do not use it.

    Another situation where PP can be used effectively is to present visual information - photos, charts, etc.

    Ironically enough, I borrowed the Tufte powerpoint rant from the Microsoft Library here at work :)

  • An effective slide show should not:
    Be primary source of information
    Exceed 7 words on 4 lines
    Contain unrelated graphs and images
    Discourage discussion of the slides contents

    This is my example of an effective powerpoint slide. This slide while only containing 22 words should probably take a few minutes to talk about. A powerpoint of maybe 10 slides for me often ends up being about an hour long. I build in a degree of Q/A and questions directed to the audience to keep them engaged and interested in the content.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      An effective slide show should not:
      Be primary source of information
      Exceed 7 words on 4 lines
      Contain unrelated graphs and images
      Discourage discussion of the slides contents

      This is my example of an effective powerpoint slide. This slide while only containing 22 words should probably take a few minutes to talk about. A powerpoint of maybe 10 slides for me often ends up being about an hour long. I build in a degree of Q/A and questions directed to the audience to keep them engaged and interested in the content.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday March 07, 2014 @11:58AM (#46428197) Journal
    There was a time in biology when the movable type made it really cheap to produce books with lots and lots of words. But pictures were very expensive. Botonists everywhere needed an unambiguous way to describe the plants to do the taxonomy and create the cladograms and genus-species classifications. So they came up with tons and tons of terms, like striated, ligule, periole, orbiculer, pinnatisect, ... ( You can see the whole glorious set here [wikipedia.org]).

    Then with the advent of lithography to replace the woodcuts, the price of including diagrams in books started falling. So one would think the botonists everywhere shouted hallelujah and thanked the providence. No. There was serious opposition to these line drawings of simple plant forms to describe the species. They railed that the pictures were a distraction. Pictures are ambiguous(!), Images do not have the clarity of description afforded by the precisely defined technical terms. Pictures are for kids. Not for serious scientists. It took quite a bit of time for images to become common in botony books.

    Now a days other than providing a rich source of words to stump the adults and torture small children preparing to be the spelling bee and to weed out the slackers in botony 101, there does not seem to be much use for these terms. (Well, I am not a botonist, and I am sure an army of them are going to rise up and roast me here.)

    Power point was a novelty, and suddenly every one can produce slides and make presentations. Most people suck at content creation, and no amount of transition animation and font choices is going to make them better. Good communicators will excel in using power points. Bad ones will suck even with the chalkboard.

    I agree most power point presentations are a waste of time. Most of them have very little content. Most of them suck big time. Where I disagree is, blaming the tool for the sins of the tool wielder.

    • by Tom (822)

      I agree most power point presentations are a waste of time. Most of them have very little content. Most of them suck big time. Where I disagree is, blaming the tool for the sins of the tool wielder.

      There are, however, good and bad tools. Powerpoint is a bad tool, and it is not by accident that almost all presentations suck, and it's not because everyone is bad at it. The whole program is focussed on being flashy, not on content. There's 50 buttons and options for animations, colour, flash, bling, look-a-three-headed-monkey - and maybe 5 buttons for content. There are plenty of examples included for different visual styles, but none for different methods of content presentation.

      And, like almost all Mic

      • Good points. True 3 digiter. I can almost hear a boss adding, "can you make it a slide and email it to me? I am meeting budget committee next week".
      • by dave1791 (315728)

        This does not refute the GP. All of those 50 bling buttons are like a honey pot for bad designers. And if MS did not offer them? People would whine about them not being in.

        I'm a product manager for an IDE. The tool offers no component for adding gauge graphics to the app being built. What do customers ask or? How do you think they'd react to "gauges are chart junk and you'll just use them to create design abominations"? So yeah, gauges are on the roadmap. *sigh*

  • ppt vs chalk-only is a false dichotomy

    you can use **both**

    this whole thing is about a lack of ability to use a complex communication channel effectively

    • Indeed, the best talks will use both for what they are good at: a pre-arranged slidedeck for images and complex graphs that cannot be hand-drawn; and a chalkboard/whiteboard for developing an idea, skething a graph, deriving an equation, or discussing back-and-forth.

      I will note that many conference rooms are poorly designed in this regard. They have the screen for the projector on a slow motor, and when the screen is down it entirely or subtantially covers the chalkboards/whiteboards. This makes it cumbe
      • by chihowa (366380) *

        (Another pet peeve is that the whiteboard markers in the room will often be dry, or the chalk missing; which makes the whiteboard/chalkboard useless.)

        If you know you're going to a presentation, pack a box of dry erase markers and chalk in your bag before you leave. Once I started doing that, and keeping my own laser pointer and spare batteries, the number of presentation hiccups dropped to nearly zero.

        If you're really pissed that you're expected to do a talk without being provided markers, bring some sharpies! That'll leave an impression (or bring a chisel for a blackboard... that'll really leave an impression!)

  • In business you often present information on the status of something and then after a dialogue have to decide on actions. Without presentation of data this would not work. Powerpoint is ok as a means of showing data. A blackboard is ok for teaching abstract subjects but probably isnt suitable for subjects that require familiarity with physical objects. Anti Powerpoint crusades are a stupid concept, Powerpoint is fine for many applications.

  • Joke (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    A business flight over the Pacific developed problems and crashed into the ocean. Three survivors washed up on the beach of an island inhabited by cannibals - an American businessman, a French businessman and a Japanese businessman.

    The cannibals had a long-standing tradition that gave each eaten one a last request before eating them.

    They went to the French business man first. His last request was for a cigarette. The island was rather close to shipping lanes and many things washed up on the beach and were s

  • by Huntr (951770) on Friday March 07, 2014 @12:06PM (#46428255)

    PPT is a tool, nothing more. People either use it effectively or they don't. If they don't, that's hardly the fault of the tool. There are plenty of people who use PPT well giving presentations, seminars, interactive talks every single day.

    My suggestion: get better speakers.

    • by beatle42 (643102)
      The people presenting are not professional presenters, they're researchers communicating their research. They should not be replaced because they're not great presenters, that's not what their job is. If a tool gets in the way more often than it helps, it should probably be removed. Further, this article suggests that it's the audience's fault at least in part since they consume a presentation differently when there's a PowerPoint presentation rather than a chalkboard talk. Should we also get a better a
  • Fermilab struggles to find enough funds to maintain their conference Audio Visual equipment and has discontinued providing video projectors for lectures to save money. Facing difficult economic conditions and funding shortages has forced a re-prioritization of how money is spent on technology.

    "Others are claiming this is about not wanting to use Power Point," said one A/V technician "but I can assure you it is about saving money. We are simply not replacing any projector lamps and as existing equipment sto

  • Some years ago an article mentioned Scott McNealy noticed amount of data being sent back and forth, and also amount of time people spending on preparing PPT. So he banned Powerpoint and there was noticeable increase in productivity, people actually doing stuff instead of futzing with PPT slides (though I also heard there was zero MS products on desktop computers at Sun so not sure how PPT was originally in place). For me when I do PPT, I typically do it in MS Word with pages in landscape orientation, then s

    • I remember this, too, and it made an impression on me. I still use PowerPoint (or Prezi, or whatever) but spend a lot of time making sure the deck helps me deliver my message, instead of me just narrating whatever's on the screen. Typically I try to use fewer than 10 slides per hour and no more than two or three bullets per slide.

      PPT can be a great tool when used correctly. Hardly anyone does, though. At least where I work.

  • Powerpoint is for sales presentations to a large and anonymous audience. Basically, when you want to be Steve Jobs(1). In a small meeting, or something with interactivity, Powerpoint is probably the most misused tool on the planet today.

    (1) Actually, if you want to give a professional presentation, you'll use Keynote, but if you want to be a cheap ripoff, you'll use Powerpoint.

    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      I'm not sure what point you're trying to make as Keynote is basically just Apple's version of PowerPoint. They both do the same exact thing. Misuse is not PowerPoint's fault. Just like it isn't Keynote fostering the creation of better-looking presentations. That's generally the result of designers typically being Apple devotees and as gravitating towards all things Apple. Of course, they're going to have a much better eye for what constitutes a good presentation. That said, I've seen some bad Keynote presen

      • by Tom (822)

        They both do the same exact thing.

        Obviously, you've never used one of them. They are "the same thing" in the same sense that a Lada and a Veyron are both cars.

        It almost always comes down to how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

        Tools matter. They don't replace skill, but if you want to get really great results, you need both skill and the right tools.

  • by tranquilidad (1994300) on Friday March 07, 2014 @12:36PM (#46428477)

    I used to give presentations to our customers and prospects in our "Corporate Visit Center" and was always extremely disappointed with the dog-and-pony shows I experienced. The problem goes well beyond PowerPoint and gets into people who have no idea how to present an idea. I'd follow speakers who would have 100 slides for a 45 minute presentation, average 3-4 minutes per slide and then wonder why they were behind schedule.

    I would show up with my PowerPoint presentation queued up and then I would challenge the audience to ask enough questions to be able to break free from it. After a while I got pretty good at never even getting past the title slide before breaking into a back-and-forth discussion and white-board diagramming. I consistently rated as the most popular speaker because I didn't walk in and present to the audience - I engaged and would talk about anything they wanted to talk about.

    I remember a new guy came on board and he was sent to watch me after I was billed as the best presenter. He reported back that I never got past the first slide and the response from my manager was, "Exactly!"

    PowerPoint is just one symptom of a larger problem: the inability to interact with an audience and discuss what they want to discuss. Even for those who needed PowerPoint in order to present I would coach them to not read the slides. The audience will read the words on the slides as you speak. The presenter should be telling a story that engages an audience - the presentation can be used as reminder points to the speaker or as either supplemental content for the audience to read or important/complex points you want them to take home for later study.

    • by chihowa (366380) *

      Even for those who needed PowerPoint in order to present I would coach them to not read the slides. The audience will read the words on the slides as you speak. The presenter should be telling a story that engages an audience...

      The easiest way to achieve this is to keep all but the most necessary words off of your slides. A big source of the disconnect between the audience and a speaker is the text being presented on the slide. The audience assumes that a slide full of text is a distillation of what the speaker is rambling on about (especially if the speaker keeps reading off of it).

      Reserving the slides for helpful visuals keeps the audience's attention on what you're saying. This helps ensure that the Q&A part of the talk isn

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Friday March 07, 2014 @12:36PM (#46428483)

    Having sat through far too many PowerPoint meetings, I've found that the problem isn't PowerPoint itself, but that most people have a compulsion to cram far too much information onto each slide. It basically gets turned into a teleprompt. So what ends up happening is that by the time the presenter done regurgitating what's on the screen everyone's already read through it all.

    PowerPoint is best used to convey overarching themes and talking points. It frames what the presenter is going to say and helps emphasize critical points. This PowerPoint ban essentially produces the same net result, but what people really need is to learn how to use the application.

  • Doesn't everybody use Beamer nowadays?
  • That means LibreOffice Impress is fine, right?

  • For our group meetings, we used to do chalkboard talks, and this year we ended them for all the same reasons. Without slides, the discussion tends to wander aimlessly, and the speaker does not get to talk about what she intended to talk about in the first place. It takes forever to sketch the simplest diagrams on a chalkboard, the resulting figure has little accuracy and the audience has to sit through a lot of pointless sketching where no information is being conveyed.

    Most people still use LaTeX-Beamer rather than PowerPoint, but the latest versions of PPT actually have very good equation tools, so IMHO, there's little reason to favor one over the other. The days of academics trashing on PPT are long gone.

  • This reminds me of a Calc lecturer I had that when hearing a request from the hall to slow down his board work, relayed a story that when he was in college, his Calc prof had broken his writing arm but soon taught himself to use his other hand instead.

    Once he was healed, he then started using both hands to write on the chalk board during his lectures.
  • I'm shocked that nobody has reminisced about the boxes of plastic transparencies and overhead projectors yet on this thread.

    Physicists giving a talk used to struggle with finding an extension cord for the overhead projector instead of the right dongle for their laptop. The talk came in a box, and they used to fiddle with writing slides using transparency markers. You could write whatever equation you wanted!

  • And make professors actually.... teach!?!
  • by cyn1c77 (928549) on Friday March 07, 2014 @03:41PM (#46430049)

    If you have any experimental data to show, you are going to need some sort of viewgraph projector or computer display. I don't think that many of ones colleagues would be content to trust that your hand-drawn data points agree perfectly with your hand-drawn "theory" curve!

    That said, it is fantastic to see people going back to the chalkboard. What is really unfortunate is that most places have ripped out their chalkboards, replaced them with dry erase boards, and then stopped stocking them with fresh markers.

  • This has nothing to do with powerpoint being bad and chalk being good. Anyone who has went through school knows there are also professors or people in general that simply talk to the chalk board and carry on with themselves. They don't know how to engage the audience or use their tools to make the audience want to talk. I've seen both good presentations and bad with powerpoint. The same goes for chalk lectures. It's just a delivery tool, the rest depends on whoever is the one giving the information out.

    In t
    • by snsh (968808)

      Powerpoint has been best described as a "projector operating system".

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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