The PowerPoint program (published by Microsoft) has been around almost as long as the personal computer. The first version was released for the classic Mac operating system in 1987. Of course the capabilities of the program improved with the development of Windows and Mac operating systems and software.
Nowadays PowerPoint has become more than a computer program. It has become like a household word for anyone in business. Powerpoint has lent its presentation style to written communication. Many reports are now written in what has come to be called “point form” where the whole report is written in short sentences marked with dots or check marks. This is the form in which most PowerPoint presentations are written. Written and PowerPoint presentations are designed, more and more, to be interchangeable.
The apparently simplistic form of PowerPoint presentations has been widely criticized. PowerPoint has become such a powerful social influence that many experts believe it has influenced the way people think. Clifford Ness, a social psychologist from Stanford University, believes that “PowerPoint gives you the outcome, but it removes the process.” He believes that people who write in PowerPoint format rarely write explanations for their conclusions.
Scott Adams, the author of the “Dilbert” cartoon describes “PowerPoint poisoning.” In 2001, computer writer Angela Garber coined the phrase, “death by PowerPoint” comparing it to the Windows “blue screen of death.”
Of course, the capabilities of today’s PowerPoint software enable a much greater variety of presentation than before. Animation is possible now, as are sound-tracks in the slideshow. However any good PowerPoint designer is aware of the boredom as well as the over-simplification factors in the presentations.
Some presentations that incorporate PowerPoint tend to alternate between the slides and three dimensional or live sections, perhaps using alternative methods of presentation like a visualizer for videos. To prevent the pitfalls of slideshow presentations, Guy Kawasaki, the blogger and frequent Ted Talk presenter, advocates the 10-20-30 rule. A PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and use no font smaller than 30.
PowerPoint can be a crutch for poor public speakers. However in the hands of a gifted speaker it can be a basis for entertainment and enlightenment.