The devil is in the details, they say, but hell will certainly have PowerPoint slides. They say PowerPoint was first conceived as a marketing tool, a quick and dirty sales pitch, but now it’s used by teachers, engineers, and, oh, even top government officials trying to convince their country to go to war. Even NASA has been criticized for relying too much on PowerPoint as an information delivery device – and investigators have suggested that a slide of jumbled bulleted lists may have caused NASA engineers to overlook safety issues that caused the Columbia disaster.
The NYT obliquely points out that PowerPoint is even useful if you want to obscure the facts. After all, the terser your message and the faster you pitch it, the harder it is for people to notice they are being deceived.
Granted, it is oversimplification in itself to blame Microsoft PowerPoint for the world’s troubles. In this Age of Technology, where workload is an all-time high and attention span is at an all-time low, where every sales rep and news anchor attempts to condense the essence of data into a single catchy phrase, how can you blame people for trying to be brief? How many times have you sat in a seminar where the idiot presenter maddenly regurgitated the points on his/her slide?
Perhaps if we keep PowerPoint in its place – as a primer or executive summary – and augmented it with real information. But how do you make people read it? After all, no matter what you do, people would rather read Cole’s Notes or rent the video rather than having to actually read an actual book.