PowerPoint drawbacks: up front and impersonal

New England Journal of Aesthetic Research
New England Journal of Aesthetic Research

You are supposed to be up close and personal. You are also supposed to be upfront… but up front, facing the audience, things are not so close and personal. It’s them versus you: them sitting and listening, and you standing and talking next to your faithful computer FIDO and its wireless leash. But the one on the leash is you. If you strand too far away, FIDO will radio you back to base, or bite you with its one and only bluetooth. That impalpable wall between you and the audience is a barrier. Granted, it is more of a psychological than a solid one, but it is a barrier nonetheless.

Imagine what might have happened had you untangled yourself from FIDO’s leash. Actually, you don’t have to. Andrew Askew, Assistant professor of Physics, Florida State University has done it and this is what he says.

“The use of the PowerPoint slides was acting as a straitjacket to discussion. […] We removed the PowerPoint slide, and like a big glass barrier was removed between the speaker and the audience. […] The communication became a lot more two-way instead of just the speaker speaking at length for 15, 20 minutes. The audience really started to come alive, to look up from their laptop computers and actually start participating in the discussion, which is what we were really trying to foster.”

(  from an interview by Alan Yu on all tech considered NPR radio http://goo.gl/u6XxpA )

The scientific presentation is a way for the scientist to get feedback on his or her work, to start a discussion. When will PowerPoint become fully interactive? When will audience input easily appear on the presenter slide (through their phone or tablet PowerPoint app)? When will presenters start interacting with the data on their PowerPoint slides with the existing but rarely used electric pen? When that day comes, when PowerPoint comes of age, maybe Jeff Bezos and Jeff Weiner will celebrate its return in their company meetings. For now, for them, PowerPoint, the fabled passivating presentation tool, is persona non grata.

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.