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Swiss Man Calls For a PowerPoint Ban (VIDEO)

Swiss Man Calls For a PowerPoint Ban (VIDEO)

At this point, we’ve all experienced “death by Powerpoint.”

All of my college students seem to have learned how to use PowerPoint in high school or earlier — yes, they live in a world in which “MS Word” has always existed, like sliced bread — and all but assume that putting together a PowerPoint is part of doing an oral presentation. I limit them to using five slides and encourage more graphics and less text. Still, there’s always someone who equates “use fewer slides” with “put more onto them than the human eye can decode.” Next fall, when informing students about oral presentations for a Classical Mythology class, I’m planning to note that two of the best presentations I’ve seen both did not use Powerpoint:

  • One student did a fabulous presentation about Norse cosmology myths using nothing more than a dry erase marker to draw a few things on the white board.
  • Another student used a good old-fashioned poster board to discuss ancient Roman adoption laws. She didn’t just paste photos of ancient Roman children or some such on the poster board, but integrated it into her presentation, which took the form of a game show.

In both cases, what really carried the presentations was the students’ public speaking skills and their interaction with their audience. In my experience, the latter especially tends to get overlooked when PowerPoint is used, as students rely too much on their pre-made slides to carry their presentation.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, Matthias Poehm, a public-speaking trainer from Switzerland is going a step further than limiting people to only five slides per presentation. He’s formed a new political party the Anti-PowerPoint Party, or APPP, which “seeks to put a referendum on the Swiss ballot that would ban PowerPoint presentations. ” Poehm says that PowerPoint is costing Switzerland $2.5-billion and the rest of Europe an estimated $160-billion annually in “lost productivity”; his hope is nothing less than starting a “global campaign against not just PowerPoint but against all presentation software.”

Yes, Keynote, don’t think you’re safe just because your templates are prettier!

More from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“In some countries students and pupils are punished with a lower mark, if they give a presentation without PowerPoint,” his fledgling party asserts on its Web site (which prominently features advertisements for Mr. Poehm’s book, The PowerPoint Fallacy). “In the future, those in companies, congresses, universities, schools, who want to renounce PowerPoint should not have to justify themselves any longer.”

Mr. Poehm is not the first to point out PowerPoint’s kryptonite-like qualities.  A study reported in 2009 by psychology researchers at the University of Central Lancashire found that 59 percent of college students find their lectures boring at least half of the time. PowerPoint was named as the key culprit.

And last year The New York Times reported Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s reaction to aparticularly confusing PowerPoint diagram depicting U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan: “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”

Poehm isn’t anti-presentation and is calling for the increased use of flip charts.

Of course, if the presenter does not have a sufficiently engaging delivery, it’s likely that no PowerPoint, flip chart, poster board, etc. can save the day. Still, I do see some increment of my students’ attention shut down, or at least go on sleep mode, when certain now-quite-familiar PowerPoint slide backgrounds appear, not to mention a bullet-pointed list. Perhaps it’s time to let PowerPoint wither away and, instead of teaching students how to add animations and resize graphics (all of which they can figure out on their own, anyways), give them a good refresher (or a first-learn-ever) about the sorts of skills an orator of the likes of the ancient Roman Cicero drew on. These included memory and being able to use rhetorical figures of pathos to move and sway the emotions of your audience.

After all, Cicero was pretty effective in his day — and he was speaking in Latin with no visual aids to speak of.

The video below features Poehm himself speaking about his anti-PowerPoint-platform.

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42 comments

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8:01PM PDT on Jul 24, 2011

I think someone's that good in public-speaking can rock a power-point no matter what. But it's true that when someone presents without one, the audience tends to listen better because all our attention is on the person speaking and not on the power-point.

5:01AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Perhaps time would better spent teaching students how to properly and effectively integrate PowerPoint or any other tool into a presentation. Teach them that it is just a tool to enhance a good speakers presentation, not a crutch to replace preparation and knowing your topic. And, like any good tool, you only use it when needed for the task.

I could also argue that used properly, PowerPoint can save money, especially when used to replace individual handouts and such.

1:35PM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Personally, I sometimes find it easier to learn in lectures when the teacher is using Powerpoint. I can write down what is impotant and then hear his/her explanations about it. Then again, I've had very good teachers who don't use Powerpoint.

It's just a tool.

3:32AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

It's a good skill to have. Just know when it's important to use it and when not.

7:33PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

Easy to learn but hard to master.

7:07PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

noted agree powerpoint is no the problem just like calculators are not the problem with people learning arithmetic.. Basic skill should be taught to the students as well as how to use them effectively. The other tools ( e.g powerpoint) can come later to enhance their talents.

6:36PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

I am all for banning the Powerpoint Rangers.

3:38PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

Most kids are taught the more information they throw at the teacher the higher the grade. It's not just high school or college, it starts much earlier than that.

3:15PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

"After all, Cicero was pretty effective in his day..." WTF? I can't even read Cicero without feeling completely ashamed for living through the complete destruction of this republic and my utter cowardness at doing anything about it for my fellow citizens and future generations. (Except not breeding-HELLO!) Cicero spoke against Tyranny, Misgovernment, Enemies of Freedom, for a Practical Code of Behavior, on Duties, Old Age, etc.
To invoke his name in some Ludditic rant is chilling and rather odd.

1:44PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

I was a juror in a child molestation case. The prosecution just loved the power point.....to the point of over kill. Just proves that anyone can over do it.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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