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Kick the Powerpoint Habit: Here’s How

Skills |

The hardest thing about any presentation is looking your audience squarely in the face — and that’s precisely what presentation software allows people to avoid.

FORTUNE — Few pieces of software are as ubiquitous — and as maligned — as PowerPoint. Microsoft (MSFT) doesn’t track PowerPoint usage numbers but a spokesperson confirmed that Office — the software package that contains the program — is used by one billion people worldwide.

Not everyone is happy about that. In an article for theNew York Times, reporter Elisabeth Bumiller described military leaders’ dismay over how PowerPoint had infiltrated the war effort in Afghanistan. “PowerPoint makes us stupid,” said Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps. Others conveyed their impression that PowerPoint stifled discussion, discouraged questions, and generally conveyed less analysis, less persuasively, than the same content would if delivered orally. It also sucked up man-hours. According to theTimes, when Company Command asked Lt. Sam Nuxoll what he did most of the day, Nuxoll responded, “Making PowerPoint slides.” He wasn’t kidding.

Some company leaders are reacting to this grumbling by trying to curtail its use. They’re either stipulating no presentation decks — period — or limiting the number of slides allowed.

A fine idea, says Warren Berger, design expert and author of Glimmer, but perhaps beside the point. The problem is not PowerPoint, or even how much time is spent preparing decks, but how it’s used, Berger argues. The hardest thing with any presentation is looking your audience squarely in the face — and that’s precisely what presentation software allows people to avoid.

[Read on at Fortune.com]

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4 Comments

lesliezaikis

I was recently at a conference where Fareed Zakaria stood up and said I'm not using powerpoint today because I find that those who use powerpoint usually don't have power and frequently don't have a point. Similar to Maxie's quote from Steve Jobs!

4y
ekp2990

Very true! Looking on the other side of the presentation, a lot of my professors refuse to use powerpoint also because it distracts students from what the professor is saying.

4y
Kara Shaw

so true!

4y
Maxie McCoy

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Isaacson's book, Steve Jobs: People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint

4y