Why Use PowerPoint at All? A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Guest Post by Jerry Weissman
Considering the universal condemnation by critics, audiences, and even by presenters themselves, why would anyone use PowerPoint? The software—and its usage—have developed a negative reputation, ranging from the common epithet, "Death by PowerPoint," to the pointed opinions of Edward Tufte, the well-known graphics guru and author of The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint in which he contends that "PowerPoint routinely disrupts and trivializes content."
After all, the most memorable speeches of history did not use PowerPoint.
- Cicero’s orations in the Roman Forum
- Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
- Winston Churchill’s World War II rally to arms
- Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights speech
- John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
- Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down the Berlin Wall” speech
- Barack Obama’s Cinderella speech
So why, indeed, would anyone use PowerPoint? The simple answer lies in the aphorism, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Those familiar words are backed by a wide array of scientific evidence. One of the most thorough is an HP publication titled, "The Power of Visual Communication,"—which cites nine learned sources, among them Mr. Tufte—and concludes that:
Recent research supports the idea that visual communication can be more powerful than verbal communication, suggesting in many instances that people learn and retain information that is presented to them visually much better than that which is only provided verbally.
Even more to the (Power) point is the opinion of Stephen M. Kosslyn, the author of the popular book, Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations, based on his work at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. As Dr. Kosslyn put it in one of his academic studies:
The timeworn claim that a picture is worth a thousand words is generally well-supported by empirical evidence, suggesting that diagrams and other information graphics can enhance human cognitive capacities in a wide range of contexts and applications.
The newest guru of visual expression is Hans Rosling, a Swedish medical doctor and statistician, whose revolutionary methodology electrified the high profile TED conference and made him an instant media and talk circuit rock star. Ten thousand words would not be adequate to describe his technique, so see for yourself in this YouTube video. A New York Times article about Dr. Rosling described the impact of his graphics:
The goal of information visualization is not simply to represent millions of bits of data as illustrations. It is to prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more.
This is not to say that you should attempt to scale Dr. Rosling’s heights. In fact, he developed his own specialized Trendalyzer software (that you can download from his site for free), but to be inspired by his simple yet animated approach to depicting statistics. Be inspired even more by his "Five Hints for a Successful Bubble Presentation" that he offers with the download. Especially his second hint:
Explain what is shown on the vertical and horizontal axis by color and size of bubble before you start moving the bubble.
In that one sentence, even Dr. Rosling, his dynamic software notwithstanding, validates the primacy of the presenter over even his graphics.
Now you know not only why, but how to use PowerPoint.
Special Offer: Order Jerry Weissman's new book, Presentations in Action, between May 20 and June 10 to receive a free copy of the In the Line of Fire: How to Handle Tough Questions DVD and 40% off another Weissman publication from FT Press.
About Jerry Weissman:
Jerry Weissman is among the world's foremost corporate presentations coaches. His private client list reads like a who's who of the world's best companies, including the top brass at Yahoo!, Intel, Intuit, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Netflix and many others.
Jerry founded Power Presentations, Ltd. in 1988. One of his earliest efforts was the Cisco Systems IPO road show. Following its successful launch, Don Valentine, of Sequoia Capital, and then chairman of Cisco's Board of Directors, attributed "at least two to three dollars" of the offering price to Jerry's coaching. That endorsement led to more than 500 other IPO road show presentations that have raised hundreds of billions of dollars in the stock market.
See Also: Presentations in Action -- The Jerry Weissman Interview
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 |