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The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation
December 7, 2001 11:30 PM   Subscribe

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation The best illustration ever of why friends don't let friends use Powerpoint. Some blame a decline in oratory and rhetoric on the television. I blame the temptation to lean on decorative visual crutches.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Incidentally, the best presentation I ever saw was given by Cathy Marshall, a hypertext specialist at Xerox Parc. She used a presentation program to prepare a series of provocative graphics that actually illustrated and complemented what she said. But sensibly, instead of driving from whatever program she used, she had them output to slides...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:33 PM on December 7, 2001


I just survived a three day meeting that I flew 1500 miles for, that included 306 powerpoint slides.

Wait, I left out the 19 page addendum delivered on day three...
posted by NortonDC at 12:24 AM on December 8, 2001


PowerPoint isn't bad compared to say an overhead projector.

Sitting in the back during a Psychology lecture with an overhead being used is horrid. Although, I still think PowerPoint is evil, and is the creation of Satan himself.
posted by Mark at 12:29 AM on December 8, 2001


On the contrary, when an overhead projector is in the hands of a good presenter/teacher it's outstanding and interactive.
posted by mmarcos at 2:57 AM on December 8, 2001


Then there's this New Yorker Article (PDF), which by coincidence I just saw yesterday... also, Peter Norvig (the Norvig in Norvig.com) co-wrote an excellent textbook on AI, which is the main text for a class I'm taking this term... which is taught primarily in powerpoint and in which I have to give a talk (assisted by powerpoint!) this week. Blech.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 4:56 AM on December 8, 2001


Here follow the words sure to strike fear into the hearts of anyone:

"I've just got a few slides here."
posted by MAYORBOB at 5:00 AM on December 8, 2001 [1 favorite]


As one who creates classroom presentations for a living (I'm a technical course developer) I have to chime in on this topic. Boring/bad presentations are the fault of the presenter and the person who designed his/her presentation...it's not the fault of the tool that's used to create them. The people I've met who truly loathe Powerpoint seem to do so primarily because it's a Micro$oft tool and therefore, ipso facto, must be evil.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:39 AM on December 8, 2001


While working at a couple of enormous corporations, I came to the conclusion that PowerPoint was indeed a crutch. It's a tool that allows people to get by without being able to communicate. Accomplished nothing in a project? That's ok: put together a PowerPoint slideshow, force people to sit through it and noone will ever know you spent 6 months screwing around.

However, this may be the greatest piece of communication in the history of English:

Summary
+ New Nation
+ Civil War
+ Dedicate field
+ Dedicated to unfinished work
+ New birth of freedom
+ Government not perish

If you knew nothing about the US Civil War, I think you'd be ok with just those bullet points.
posted by yerfatma at 6:42 AM on December 8, 2001


Does anyone know of a better alternative to Power Point? I think it's horrid that you have to watch the presenter start it up through the program that makes it, seems really unprofessional.

The only time I used Power Point I included full page graphics and video. I don't think I actually used anything Power Point gave me. It went over great because it was fresh and didn't repeat what I said, it added something new.
posted by geoff. at 8:12 AM on December 8, 2001


In the military, the use & abuse of PowerPoint has become legendary/notorious, even resulting in a PowerPoint Ranger creed. Sadly, I was a .ppt ranger for a while...not by choice, I assure you, but rather as a function of my job as an assistant to a high-ranking boss; my role was to create such presentations for the boss. I swear, it wasn't my fault!
posted by davidmsc at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2001


" I think it's horrid that you have to watch the presenter start it up through the program that makes it, seems really unprofessional."

Actually there is an option you can set which will make your slideshow start automatically when you double click it!!
posted by howa2396 at 8:21 AM on December 8, 2001


I have mixed feelings about PowerPoint. On the one hand, I don't feel that PowerPoint is particularly making presentations worse. Before PowerPoint we just had to stare at overheads printed in 12 point Courier. At the very least PowerPoint is a good crunch to keep bad presenters from bombarding us with bad overheads. It does provide a nice efficient way to format graphs, charts, data, and tables for presentation. The last professional conference I went to put a digital video projector in every meeting room but getting an overhead projector required twisting some arms. Printing the information on the screen certainly helps people like me who bombarded with too much Van Halen in our youth now have problems understanding speakers in poorly designed meeting rooms.

On the other hand, I have had miserable luck using PowerPoint in presentations because it seems like every time SOMETHING goes wrong. As a result, if I have the cash by almost always print slides out to overheads. Overheads are nice because they force me to face the audience.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2001


"On the contrary, when an overhead projector is in the hands of a good presenter/teacher it's outstanding and interactive."

(A hush falls over ENGL 212 as Professor Thompson enters the room.)

"Today, class, we're going to be discussing Shelley's Mont Blanc. I know that a lot of you find this poem cryptic. Indeed, it's one of the most misunderstood poems of the Romantic period."

(Mr. Thompson pauses for dramatic effect. He takes a sip of coffee and clears his throat. The class hangs on his every word.)

"But I don't think you'll be having that problem, because today... I will be using... AN OVERHEAD PROJECTOR!"

(wave of applause, hoots and cheers. One students faints from joy. Another student, overcome with emotion, immediately proposes marriage to his sweetheart. Of course, she accepts.)
posted by Hildago at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2001 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know of a better alternative to Power Point?

I don't use PP because its text formatting abilities are crap, but I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with projecting slides. I use a mixture of Word, Freehand, Photoshop and other media, all converted to PDF. Acrobat does a lovely job of presenting slides, you just can't have all that junk with bullet points swooshing in from outside the frame--which is the most annoying part of PP anyway.

That said, the one thing I miss from PP is the ability to easily have light-on-dark text and backgrounds. Word doesn't do that, and it projects better than dark-on-light. I keep meaning to switch over to Pagemaker or InDesign for my slide-making, but I never get around to it.

* Anyone using 12 point type on a slide should be harassed mercilessly (and is, in my classes).

I use transparencies a lot too, and I agree they are in some ways the best medium--more flexible, more writeable. A good projector is a key element.
posted by rodii at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2001


alternative to Power Point?

Unfortunately there really isn't. PPTs last competitor was Adobe Persuasion which was phased out a couple of years ago. I don't think Adobe even offers support for the product at all any more.

PowerPoint still isn't the app that Persuasion was. Things like multiple masters, postscript support were some of the things that PPT has never embraced. Shame.
posted by dataport72 at 12:15 PM on December 8, 2001


Anyone remember Harvard Graphics? (hee, hee!)
posted by davidmsc at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2001


from davidmsc's link - "There is an arms-race dimension to it," says Peter Feaver, a military expert at Duke University and frequent PowerPoint briefer at various war colleges. "If there are three briefings in a row, and you are the one with the lowest production values, you look really lame."

...All of which makes Duke University's Feaver wonder if the U.S. military is misusing the technology. "If we really wanted to accomplish something we shouldn't be teaching our allies how to use PowerPoint," he says. "We should give it to the Iraqis. We'd never have to worry about them again."


feaver's a ex-professor of mine - one of my favorites, in fact - for the record, i don't recall him ever using ppt in a classroom setting.
posted by lizs at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2001


As a graphic designer, it pains me to even think about using PowerPoint—it makes everything look chintzy.

Does anyone know of a better alternative to PowerPoint?

I do: Macromedia Flash.

It's far more flexible than Powerpoint, and it's more than ready to be shown on a full screen, and HEY! you can even run it through a web browser. (I have yet to willingly download a PowerPoint Web plug-in.)

This isn't to say that typical Flash presentations are any better than typical Powerpoint. A sharper tool in the wrong hands will still create a mess.

Unless you need hard statistics shown in a visual form, or your audience needs to take down notes verbatim, any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than a visual aide.
posted by Down10 at 3:17 PM on December 9, 2001


Macromedia Flash doesn't even have the concept of slides, speaker's notes, or the ability to print handouts. That's no surprise, because it's not a presentation program; however, it makes it a pretty lousy replacement for PowerPoint.
posted by kindall at 5:24 PM on December 9, 2001


Unless you need hard statistics shown in a visual form, or your audience needs to take down notes verbatim, any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than a visual aide.

I can't tell what this sentence means.
posted by rodii at 6:08 PM on December 9, 2001


"I can't tell what this sentence means."

Seems pretty straightforward to me. Broken down a little:

Unless:
* You need hard statistics shown in a visual form, or:
* Your audience needs to take down notes verbatim
Any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than a visual aid.

If it's clearer reading that, btw...keep in mind that all I really did was replace commas with asterisks. If it's not...well, I tried.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:06 PM on December 9, 2001


Any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than a visual aid.

Does this mean "any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than it is a a visual aid," or "any overhead projection is going to be more of a distraction than a visual aid is going to be a distraction"? Is an overhead projection not a visual aid?
posted by rodii at 9:21 PM on December 9, 2001


Or does "a visual aide" mean one of those women that stand by the booths at trade shows? Because they're pretty distracting, in my opinion.
posted by rodii at 9:32 PM on December 9, 2001


When I think PowerPoint, I think of those horrendously dull official Microsoft courses. Hundreds of incredibly boring and uninformative slides, graphics created by five year olds, and a beige background with pink bullet points.

They make billions of dollars a year and they can't do any better than a beige background with pink bullet points. Christ.
posted by dodgygeezer at 6:35 AM on December 10, 2001


I haven't ever cranked out a presentation with it, but StarOffice includes a presentation module that mostly a clone of the Microsoft variety.

As for multimedia presentations of the PowerPoint variety. The main problem I encounter with them is that presenters seems to think that they are a good way to present information which is primarily textual: they're not. An easier and more effective way to present text to a group is to use handouts.

Presentation software enables you to get content up on the screen--it doesn't teach you good instructional design principles any more than owning a copy Dreamweaver teaches you good web design principles.
posted by wheat at 8:53 AM on December 10, 2001


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