PowerPoint has been getting a lot of abuse lately; it has been blamed for the boredom of millions, and has even been accused of contributing to the shuttle Columbia disaster. Presentations magazine has asked "Does PowerPoint Make You Stupid?" as has CNN. Edward Tuft, a professor of information design at Yale and a dedicated hater of PowerPoint, "believes PowerPoint's emphasis on format over content commercializes and trivializes subjects." He details his reasons for despising PowerPoint in his Wired article, PowerPoint is Evil.
Much of the hostility is directed at bullet points. Luckily for presenters and audiences everywhere, PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 includes a feature that I think may help solve the problem of bullet point overkill.
As a presenter, I've struggled to compile PowerPoint presentations without offering too much text on the slides. But if you put much of what you want to say on your notes pages instead of the slides, you are stuck trying to coordinate your slides and your paper print-out at the same time. Trust me, when you're in front of an audience it's very difficult to page through PowerPoint slides while also keeping track of where you are in your notes. The answer for many presenters is to include bullet points on the slides to keep them on track, and avoid the notes pages altogether. Hence, an over-abundance of bullet points and text, and presenters who tend to read their slides.
To the rescue is a feature I've always longed for, presenter view. Presenter view allows you to see your notes and slides on your laptop, while displaying the slides only on the overhead projector. For more detailed information on how to set up presenter view, see Presenter view: tools for running a PowerPoint presentation, from Microsoft.
I'm looking forward to trying this out. Once I no longer need bullet points to remember what I want to say, I think I'll be on my way to using PowerPoint in a socially responsible manner.
If that's not enough to help wean you from an excess of bullet points, try Beyond Bullets, a web site dedicated to effective use of PowerPoint.
Now maybe we can stop blaming PowerPoint for all the ills of the world. Just remember, PowerPoint doesn't bore people, people bore people.