Presentation software (and PowerPoint® specifically) is the target of heavy criticism these days. The phrase “Death by PowerPoint®” is commonly used to describe the abuse of this medium: Too many slides, too many words, annoying animations, bizarre color choices, gratuitous graphics, etc.
However, lest we despair, it is useful to remember what preceded PowerPoint® and dominated corporate training sessions and meetings for several decades: the overhead projector.
You can still find them if you look hard enough. Sometimes gathering dust in a forgotten corner of the company storeroom; perhaps hidden under a stack of Styrofoam cups in a supply cabinet. Then, if you are old enough to remember, it all comes back:
The slightly key-stoned image on the tippy portable screen, brilliant in the center, faded on the sides. The roar of the exhaust fan laboring to cool a 750-watt halogen lamp that made the projector hot enough to cook waffles. The horror on the faces of the audience when they first walked into the room and saw the towering stack of transparencies that were scheduled to be shown. The horror on the presenter’s face after accidently toppling that same stack of transparencies onto the floor and frantically trying to re-sequence them. As a presenter, staring into the blinding light as you annotated with an erasable pen, then glancing at your audience and seeing nothing but a big blue dot and the certain on-set of macular degeneration. And finally, the sizzling pop of the bulb burning out and the whole wretched enterprise fading to black.
Yes, we should all learn to use PowerPoint® in a more interactive, engaging, and effective way. But believe me, there are worse things.
- Physical activity washes the brain with oxygen and increases cognitive capacity.
- Anthropologists tell us that our evolutionary ancestors walked as many as 12 miles per day. We have not yet adapted to sitting motionless for hours.
- Cognitive psychologists tell us that people tend to remember the beginnings and ends of things. Logically, the more beginnings and ends you have, the more opportunity for retention.
- Pauses between segments allow for reflection, which facilitates the movement of information from short-term to long-term memory.
- Cell phone addicts will less tempted to sneak a text or email because they know that the next break is never very far away.
- The acute biological discomfort of a full bladder usually trumps any intellectual interest you may have in the topic.