- Paperback: 32 pages
- Publisher: Graphics Press; 2 edition (2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0961392169
- ISBN-13: 978-0961392161
- Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 8.5 x 10.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition 2nd Edition
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To those thinking about buying this booklet (28 pages) let me save you the expense by summarizing it:
PowerPoint slides don't have much information in them, and you're limited to a sequential presentation order.
That's about it. His booklet is an extended indictment of the limitations of PowerPoint. Anyone interested in suggestions for Powerpoint improvements will find a refernce on the last page in a postscript to read the third chapter of his book, Visual Explanations, or visit his web site.
Do that instead of reading this booklet.
Don't worry: Tufte's criticisms of the software package are not the latest round of Microsoft-bashing from an academic elite practically wed to its Macs.
Rather, Tufte sets his sights on bigger and more rewarding game: how presenters have watered down their presentation styles to suit off-the-rack presentation templates provided by this software package.
His thesis is as simple and elegant as his goal of streamlined, impactful communication. PowerPoint lacks the resolution necessary to convey a rich stream of information to the presentation audience.
If you're inclined to defend the software, ask yourself if you've endured the following in a PowerPoint slideshow:
- An unending stream of bullet lists or "talking points" consisting of a handful of words per slide
- Branding (logos, headers, footers, titles etc) which takes up a large portion of available slide real estate
- "Sesame Street" style animations which obscure rather than illuminate the subject matter
- Distracting audio cues which draw the audience's attention away from the speaker and toward "the machine that goes, 'PING'"
Or try a simpler exercise: Think back to the best talk or pitch you can recall. Was PowerPoint employed? I suspect not; and for good reason, as Tufte argues.
Sadly, thanks to the ubiquity of the software, the abuse of PowerPoint has consequences far beyond bored audiences.Read more ›
The point of the essay seems to be, instead of trying to make your PPTs better, you shouldn't even bother using the evil software package from Microsoft. Instead, make a nice handout for your audience.
So I decided to perform a test. I was involved in an internal presentation to a different group in the company. One by one, eight different managers gave a 10 to 15 minute presentation to a group of about 25 people. While the other managers worked on their PPTs, got their laptops ready, and made sure a screen and a Boxlight would be in the conference room, I worked on a one-page handout. My presentation would stand by itself, without the crutch of PPT illuminating the wall behind me; the handout would supplement my presentation, and would allow the audience to take something physical back to their offices.
After the presentations were over, the audience was asked to fill out a survey. To summarize, they hated the handouts, loved the PPTs. And the PPT presentation they loved the best was one of the most hideous examples I had ever seen--one Mr. Tufte would have had a field day tearing apart, one slide at a time.
I agree that too many presenters use bad PPTs as a crutch, and as presenters we should rely more on handouts as a secondary communication tool. However, in my own experience the audience seems to want and *expect* PPTs-in which case a bad PPT might be more effective than no PPT at all. Read Tufte's essay and take his points to heart, but ultimately, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!
That's why this booklet (28pp, covers included) disappoints me - he just doesn't live up to his own standard. As he did with the Challenger space shuttle's disaster years ago, he uses this book to analyze the presentations that contributed to the loss of the Columbia shuttle and crew. In the Challenger case, he showed some of the mis- and dis-informative displays, and how they could have been converted to tools for making decisions. In the Columbia case, he only went half-way: what was wrong, not how to make it right.
The rest of the booklet follows the same pattern: what's wrong, with very few positive, definite suggestions for mitigating or circumventing the problems. His conclusion is that PowerPoint is hopelesly flawed, and I have to agree. That's just not enough, though. Given its dire failings, and given that its use is pervasive and sometimes compulsory, what specific steps can we as viewers and presenters take in order to transfer information anyway?
This is a great half of a book: the problem statement. His bad examples are wonderfully bad. Unfortunately, the missing second half is replaced by little more than one sentence on the inside back cover: "Well, I can recommend 3 books on how to present visual evidence!"
Please, Mr. Tufte. You can do better, you have done better, and your readers deserve better.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What more can be said. I have has this book for years now. I was already moving away from PowerPoint when I received this. Read morePublished 1 month ago by RB2001
This particular book is an excerpt of Tufte’s magnum opus Beautiful Evidence, including the material on power point but separated from the larger context of his work, which had yet... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Nathan Albright
It's pretty clear from the start that Tufte really hates Powerpoint. The data is very distinct, the flaws very clearly pointed out. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Liralen Li
Amazing. This should be required reading for anyone who works in a cubicle, or is currently in the military. Or for anyone else in a Powerpoint-dependent organization.Published 19 months ago by Edward R Slavis