It has become popular to denigrate PowerPoint as an insidious virus that is undermining how we communicate. Edward Tufte, famed author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, has taken to attacking PowerPoint. His article in Wired Magazine is example of his outrage: “PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content…PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play — very loud, very slow, and very simple."
A careful reading of Tufte makes it clear the source of the problem: the presentation authors themselves. He complains about poor presentation of data, poor structure, and insufficient or boring content (compensated for by fancy formatting). Most of all, he fears that shortcuts taken through PowerPoint violate the most fundamental of presentation rules: respect your audience. I couldn’t agree more. And we know the software couldn’t do it alone.
The medium isn’t the problem. It is the skill demonstrated by the craftsman using the tool. Those interested in berating PowerPoint would be well advised to read the Quality Content Manifesto by Mark Ramsey. Ramsey doesn’t blame the movie format for vacuous entertainment. Instead, he calls for Hollywood to recommit itself to creating quality content with great stories and powerful characters.
The same can be said for presentations.