PowerPoint Presentations


Edward Tufte is a professor emeritus of political science, computer science, statistics, and graphic design at Yale.


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He wrote a famous article “PowerPoint is evil.”


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AP/Wide World Photos
Tufte satirizes the totalitarian impact of presentation slideware.

“Consider an important and intriguing table of survival rates for those with cancer relative to those without cancer for the same time period. Some 196 numbers and 57 words describe survival rates and their standard errors for 24 cancers.”


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A traditional table: rich, informative, clear. Presenting information in a traditional table is an example of a GOOD design.


“Applying the PowerPoint templates to this nice, straightforward table yields an analytical disaster.”


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PowerPoint chartjunk: smarmy, chaotic, incoherent. This is the same information, but presented via PowerPoint templates and it's an example of a BAD design.

According to Tufte, a PowerPoint slide may have contributed to the mistaken conclusion reached by NASA engineers that the space shuttle Columbia could safely re-enter the Earth's atmosphere despite possible damage to its wing from a falling piece of foam upon takeoff (The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint).


“A bad PowerPoint presentation is a symptom of the writer's failure” (Communication Partners, 2003). It is a presenter's responsibility to design clear, simple, and effective slides. If used correctly, PowerPoint presentation could be “a medium for creative expression” (Byrne, 2003)


Jose Silva developed the “Swiss-Army-Knife” model of presentation preparation. For his presentations, Silva uses Microsoft Word, InDesign, Mathematica (for formulas), Stata (for statistical summaries), Illustrator, Photoshop, and Keynote.


Read Lousy PowerPoint presentations: The fault of PP users?


How to Design 
a Good Presentation?

  • Don’t put every single word you plan to say in your presentation.

  • Use sans-serif fonts as Arial and Helvetica.

  • Don’t use UPPER CASE, except when making a strong point.

  • General guidelines for font size: Titles = 44 pt; Subtitles = 28 -34 pt; Bullet points = 24 pt.

  • Avoid using too much text. Use 6 x 6 rule: 6 words per line and 6 lines per slide.

  • Keep the background consistent and simple.

  • 50% of slides or each third slide should have graphic (table, flowchart, photo, clip art).

  • Don’t enlarge graphics – they get fuzzy.

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Different Visual Treatments

The background is a tired, overused PowerPoint template. The text is difficult to read. The clip-art used does not reinforce the statistic.

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The visual displays the pie chart in a distorted and inelegant fashion. For the sake of clarity, it is usually best to avoid 3-D effects.

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These are good examples:


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References

PowerPoint Is Evil

What is good PowerPoint design?

Lousy PowerPoint presentations: The fault of PP users?

When Good PowerPoint Presentations Go Bad


Assignments

Assignment #1

Read What is Good PowerPoint Design? and When Good PowerPoint Presentations Go Bad.

Create a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation with 2 slides – 1 slide as an example of a bad design and 1 slide as an example of a good design. Explain why you chose these examples. Link your PowerPoint presentation to your wiki.


Assignment #2

Read 4 Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft PowerPoint

1. Google Docs

2. SlideRocket

3. 280 Slides

4. Prezi

Create Module 3 for your e-learning course using one of these alternative presentation software applications (at least 5 slides with text and images). Follow good design guidelines. Don’t forget to include References at the end of your presentation. Link your presentation to your wiki.