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Physics Forum At Fermilab Bans Powerpoint

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the powerpoint-considered-harmful dept.

Science 181

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Amanda Solliday reports at Symmetry that six months ago, organizers of a biweekly forum on Large Hadron Collider physics at Fermilab banned PowerPoint presentations in favor of old-fashioned, chalkboard-style talks. 'Without slides, the participants go further off-script, with more interaction and curiosity,' says Andrew Askew. 'We wanted to draw out the importance of the audience.' In one recent meeting, physics professor John Paul Chou of Rutgers University presented to a full room holding a single page of handwritten notes and a marker. The talk became more dialogue than monologue as members of the audience, freed from their usual need to follow a series of information-stuffed slides flying by at top speed, managed to interrupt with questions and comments. Elliot Hughes, a Rutgers University doctoral student and a participant in the forum, says the ban on slides has encouraged the physicists to connect with their audience. 'Frequently, in physics, presenters design slides for people who didn't even listen to the talk in the first place,' says Hughes. 'In my experience, the best talks could not possibly be fully understood without the speaker.'"

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181 comments

Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427801)

I always get much more out of a lecture if the instructor is actively diagramming on the blackboard. Maybe I'm old fashioned.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427839)

"Hand out the PP slides after the talk."

Pocket Protectors? These guys probably already have them.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 5 months ago | (#46427889)

I always get much more out of a lecture if the instructor is actively diagramming on the blackboard. Maybe I'm old fashioned.

Yes. But why hand out slides? Why have slides at all? You've already learned more than the slides contain; what will slides add?

If you like notes, you were taking notes during the talk - which are more useful than slides would be.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (5, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 5 months ago | (#46427927)

But... but... explain to me how you can get a chalk board or white board to go "whooooooosh" when you go on to the next set of bullet points! I don't know about you but if it doesn't go "whooooooosh" I've lost everything salient and important about what you've presented. Oh ya one other thing... how do you get neat visual effects like folds and crinkly dissolves to happen with a chalk board or white board?

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about 5 months ago | (#46428065)

Yeah, physicists who have an interesting set of knowledge that they understand don't need powerpoint. It's designed for consultants, who justify their existence to the board.

"You want me to show you what I do in a day? Here is a powerpoint."
First Slide

"Here you can see a pretty graph"
Next slide

"Here you can see me making a joke"..... ha ha ha ha
Next slide

"Here's me collaborating with the team"
Next slide

"Here I'm drinking coffee."
Next Slide

"I came here to kick ass and drink coffee. And now I've finished my coffee"
Next Slide

"Here you can see me showing a powerpoint presentation of what I do in a day."

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (3, Funny)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#46428077)

If you want folds and crinkly dissolves, you use a flip chart.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (5, Funny)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#46428155)

I generally just yell "Whoooooooooosh!" really loudly as I erase. As for different visual effects, I sometimes use the small eraser, while other times I use the big eraser. I've even used a cloth rag every once in a while. If I'm feeling really snazzy, I'll use two erasers at once (one in each hand!)!

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 5 months ago | (#46428397)

Flame-thrower. Laser pointers just aren't there yet.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427985)

The notes will tell you what you think the lecturer meant to tell you. But the slides, or notes, or whatever, written by the lecturer himself, will be closer in spirit to what the lecturer himself meant. Not to mention that manual note taking is imperfect.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428423)

Plus if you are given a base set of notes, you can still take more notes on top of them. Instead of spending all your time writing down stuff quickly, hoping to keep it legible, and pay attention at the same time, you can concentrate on the material and write down your own thoughts, answers to questions, and or highlight things that need further thought. And if you are someone like me, that remembers things better when writing them down even if never returning to read the notes, you can still write things down unless you let yourself get lazy.

Notes are incomplete (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 5 months ago | (#46427999)

If the only recorded information is your own notes, then you need to either stenograph the talk with no time to digest (which leaves you with the same problem as the information-filled slides did, plus finger cramps), or risk missing something important.

I'll concur that slides are a very poor format for a handout, though, and senseless if you're not even projecting the slides during the talk. Just hand out the notes.

Re:Hand out the PP slides after the talk. (1)

IDtheTarget (1055608) | about 5 months ago | (#46428689)

My memory has gotten considerably worse these past five years. I need something to take with me to stimulate my memory of the things I found important.

I also find that, if I'm busy trying to take notes, the Extraneous Cognitive Load [wikipedia.org] ensures that I actually absorb less of the material.

Bottom line: If I have pre-printed notes, highlights, outline, etc of the talk before it is given, I can relax and enjoy the lecture, interact with the instructor, and only add specific impressions by writing on the handout. I'll retain more, learn more, and remember more.

Powerpoint? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427847)

You mean LaTeX, right?

Re:Powerpoint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428513)

You mean LaTeX, right?

Written solely in VIM.

Re:Powerpoint? (2)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about 5 months ago | (#46428685)

Beamer [wikipedia.org] FTW!

We give chalk talks. (5, Insightful)

delt0r (999393) | about 5 months ago | (#46427849)

For precisely this reason. It also means you go at a speed where students can pick up the material. Slides you just go too fast. Most of the students like it. The ones that don't show up at class, not so much.

Re:We give chalk talks. (4, Insightful)

chihowa (366380) | about 5 months ago | (#46427979)

The article is about research presentations and not classes, but I completely agree with you wrt classes. One compromise that I like is slides for complicated figures (that would take forever for you to draw, poorly, on the board) and handouts of those slides so that the students don't have to try to recreate them (again, poorly). Then everything else goes on the board while talking.

As for research presentations, I love chalk talks (both giving and attending) and loathe powerpoint presentations. There's something about ppt that seems to make everybody check out.

Re:We give chalk talks. (3)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#46428101)

One compromise that I like is slides for complicated figures (that would take forever for you to draw, poorly, on the board) and handouts of those slides so that the students don't have to try to recreate them (again, poorly).

Indeed. I would even go so far as to say that this is not a compromise, but the actual, honest-to-goodness, correct use of slides in a presentation, and has been since the dawn of the slide projector. Complicated figures, photographs (of, say, an archaeological excavation or Civil War soldier), or the hypotheses of a theorem that you are planning to prove on the board are reasonable things to put on a slide, and are things that should be put up on the screen for reference. Lacking a projector, handouts are a good alternative (and, perhaps, might be preferable, except for the time that it takes to pass them out and the fact that most of them will end up on the trash).

Re:We give chalk talks. (2)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#46428137)

My biggest issue with PowerPoint is that people have a tendency to toss too many slides in. After 100 slides, I'm flipping through what tripe people are sharing on Facebook on my phone, or just asleep, and hopefully don't get so far asleep I fall out of the chair.

I appreciate chalk talks. It takes time to write one's ideas on a board and not just throw a canned presentation and click a mouse. Chalk talks are far more interactive and hold attention.

Re:We give chalk talks. (1)

gsslay (807818) | about 5 months ago | (#46428313)

Have to agree.

I can fully appreciate the danger of "death by powerpoint". Some people really do sucky presentations that positively encourage viewers to switch off. If your presentation could be as well printed out, and taken home and read, then you're not doing it right.

But sometimes when you are presenting a complex idea, that would take ages to draw, and you'd probably mess up or forget bits, you need something pre-prepared. And a bit of animation, etc, used sparingly in the right places, can really help your explanation. You can't do that with chalk or marker pen.

Re:We give chalk talks. (1)

GTRacer (234395) | about 5 months ago | (#46428359)

And a bit of animation [...] can really help your explanation. You can't do that with chalk or marker pen.

Of /course/ you can, especially if you have access to a flipboard. How do you think Disney did it in the last century?

Though, TBH, your framerate's gonna be terrible...

Re:We give chalk talks. (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 5 months ago | (#46428627)

LMOL, yeah because it's soo much easier to draw complex diagrams in power point than by hand :)~

Re:We give chalk talks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428485)

I agree about the images. An ideal research presentation uses the projector for images only, or in some cases for equations that you want to point out the features of (as opposed to expecting people to absorb the whole thing, instead just saying, "Well, we can see these terms don't matter, this one is quadratic, and so on, the details are in this paper if you want to sit down and think about it.:")

Probably the most important reason to project plots of actual data, is I've seen plenty of research talks where data gets thrown up on the screen, the presenter comments on some trend, and then someone in the audience comments on some outliers, or a second trend, or points out that where the trend crosses the axis is actually quite significant, etc. If someone was quickly drawing a plot on a chalkboard, they are going to draw it as they remember it, with the trend they thought they saw.

The only exception for the use of computer based presentation for visual material only, is if you are at a conference with a large international representation. Then short important points in words will help those who don't speak your language as well. .

Re:We give chalk talks. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#46428007)

Not a problem since you can get a copy off someone else's notebook.

I have been in a lot of chalkboard classes where the teacher simply copied his hand notes to the board and accepted no questions at all during all the class. In fact I had a teacher who was like this the entire semester. If they have a lot in the program to teach you they won't slow down the pace to any humanly comprehensible pace at all.

Re:We give chalk talks. (2, Informative)

delt0r (999393) | about 5 months ago | (#46428085)

Well we are given no credit for teaching. None. No matter how well or badly or how much of it we have to do. So you are simply going to get some crap teachers and teachers that just don't care. Your cutting into their research time, which we are evaluated on.

For the record we try and make it quite interactive.

Re:We give chalk talks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428187)

+1, however...I do about half and half in my lectures (classes, not talks). Anything I want them to write down is on the board. However, I find slides (not powerpoint, but similar) very helpful to show things that they may not need to write down, like a theorem which gives some background, or an interesting picture/graph.

PPT = complex communication channel (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#46428203)

"powerpoint" is a brand name for a computer program that can make visual computer images & text

**images & text**

that's all powerpoint is...

You are depriving students of a very effective communication channel b/c you don't know how to use it properly. I'm not saying TFA is "wrong" or that you personally are unprofessional...but **regressing to using ONLY CHALK is a problem of THE PRESENTER**

Chalk-only is much more simplistic. Science types are typically horrible public speakers. Using something as *visually complex* as PPT effectively in a speech or presentation requires mid-level presentation skills.

The first lesson I used to teach for PPT is "less is more" You can have 'slides' you hand out but don't present, also, your handout doesn't *just* have to have your PPT slides

Also, the "PPT" has become a way for people to procrastinate & do half-ass work. Especially in business sectors that are very perception-based, the presentation is what gets you the contract, not the RFP....not saying it's right or good, just describing how things often work.

Powerpoint is a computer program....**its just another communication channel** the fact that some people can't use it effectively means they need to *learn better communication and speaking skills*

Re:PPT = complex communication channel (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 5 months ago | (#46428525)

You know i have won several best talks/presentations awards at some pretty big conferences. Sure i can use a computer to give a "great talk/whatever". But at what cost time wise? and for what? If after the 2 hours i have my students know and understand what they need to, how am i depriving them of anything.

Re:PPT = complex communication channel (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#46428655)

You know i have won several best talks/presentations awards at some pretty big conferences.

No, I didn't know that, but I made pains to say specifically in my post: " I'm not saying TFA is "wrong" or that you personally are unprofessional."....

so...I continue my lamentations....srsly we need to be able to directly contradict each other without it being personal

you ARE using a less complex communication channel when you go 'chalk-only'....and dude i'm old-school, for real....but it's arbitrary and re-inforces bad problem solving skills to just ***not use*** something b/c you can't handle it's complexity

making archane "no powerpoint" rules shows that you surrender to the complexity of the software....and its the students that suffer

also, I've worked as a prof myself & in our current academic climate a prof must **seek out** helpful feedback...with positive effort...students are conditioned not to make constructive criticism!!!!

Re:PPT = complex communication channel (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 5 months ago | (#46428635)

You don't need PowerPoint. The fact that you haven't considered that is how limited your thinking is.

Re:We give chalk talks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428549)

When I was at university I quickly realized that the classes taught from slides were not worth my time because I could just read the slides and learn the material at my convenience.

However, I attended every session of my discrete math class where the teacher hand-wrote notes on an overhead projector... not just because that was the only way I could get the notes, but also because that class was by far the most engaging class in my entire college career.

Slides vs White Powder (5, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 5 months ago | (#46427855)

My wife and I have communicated exclusively with PowerPoint slides for the past 21 years. A chalk board would just make a mess.

Re:Slides vs White Powder (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#46427953)

I can't imagine powerpoint sex would even be half as satisfying as cybersex

Re:Slides vs White Powder (5, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46428023)

Slide in, slide out, wipe down, fade to black.

Re:Slides vs White Powder (4, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 5 months ago | (#46428103)

I keep the house a bit on the cool side to enhance her bullet points when she begins her presentation.

Re:Slides vs White Powder (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about 5 months ago | (#46428031)

I dunno. I'm always screwed when I fire up powerpoint.

Re:Slides vs White Powder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428017)

My wife and I have communicated exclusively with PowerPoint slides for the past 21 years. A chalk board would just make a mess.

You make a good point. It is cheaper than divorce.

Somewhere, Feynman is rejoicing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427865)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-feynman-tufte-princip/

Re:Somewhere, Feynman is rejoicing (2)

hubie (108345) | about 5 months ago | (#46428227)

Every time you make a Powerpoint, Edward Tufte kills a kitten

Scientists hate Microsoft Office (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427875)

Incompatibility between versions, useless features (plots) and absolutely broken formatting issues means most scientists are using TeX -> PDF these days. I spend a lot of my time talking them through converting video to animated GIF because codecs are flagrantly nonstandard worldwide.

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 5 months ago | (#46427909)

To be fair, Office isn't designed for top-tier academia. So physicists using (La)TeX are in fact using the right tool for the job :)

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428487)

Office isn't even suitable for advanced undergrads in physics.

That said, electrical engineering undergrads seem to love excel.

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | about 5 months ago | (#46428021)

LaTeXiT and keynote 5.3...

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428199)

No -- please, no!

This is the whole point of TFA: the correct tool for seminars and presentations is chalk and a chalkboard (or a marker and a whiteboard if you are an eldritch abomination or other form of Prime Evil).

LaTeX is for papers. Should you find yourself using LaTeX in preparing slides for a talk, you need to throw out all the slides and start over (or better yet, don't start over, and just ditch the slides).

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#46428287)

Chalk vs markers. The new (old?) vi vs emacs.

Re:Scientists hate Microsoft Office (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428411)

Emacs and vi were written in 1976. The first dry-erase EXPO marker was also released in 1976.

So, in all probability, both wars began at just about the same time.

No Powerpoint (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | about 5 months ago | (#46427883)

And nothing of value was lost.

In my experience, Powerpoint users focus more on effects than on content. I once saw someone advocating the use of a kind of "giant notebook" for drawing the slides live, with the idea that it would foster interaction and keep the audience interested. As someone that usually sleeps during Powerpoint presentations this idea sounds better, although I don't really think it would help unless the presenter worked for it.

Another presentation program that I feel that works too much on effect is Prezi. I often see presentations on it so full of movement and loops that I think some risk movement sickness from that. And the delay to change slides is a pain when the presentation has ended and someone asks to see that third slide from the beginning.

However (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427885)

Keynote is gladly accepted!

Re:However (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | about 5 months ago | (#46427989)

5.3 not 6.+ though

Illegal chemicals (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | about 5 months ago | (#46427891)

Hasn't chalk been banned by the TSA as a suspicious white powder?

Interaction is key (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 5 months ago | (#46427897)

Excellent - interaction with the audience is the key here, otherwise you may as well see any number of course videos online.

I remember I think a previous Slashdot story, where the students were encouraged to read the presentation first (Word/Powerpoint whatever), and then in the lecture hall, the idea was to discuss and Q+A the professor. A far better use of time - more interesting and productive.

LHC is at CERN (1)

selectspec (74651) | about 5 months ago | (#46427925)

The LHC is at Cern. Maybe they should ban a bi-weekly forum on CERN's activities and focus on activities at Fermi lab?

Re:LHC is at CERN (3, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#46427931)

this will be shocking news for you, but the high energy physics labs of the world collaborate

Re:LHC is at CERN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428173)

Eww! Europeans!

Re:LHC is at CERN (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428075)

The LHC is at Cern. Maybe they should ban a bi-weekly forum on CERN's activities and focus on activities at Fermi lab?

Yes, it's terrible that physicists on one continent are discussing what physicists on another continent are doing.

What's next, scientists jointly publishing papers? Citing one another, willy-nilly? Reviewing their peers' work? Dogs and cats, living together?

Re:LHC is at CERN (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 months ago | (#46428119)

not to mention parts of CERN's systems were designed, built or tested at Fermilab, Fermilab is a tier one part of the Worldwide LHC Compute Grid

I always say... (1)

dysmal (3361085) | about 5 months ago | (#46427943)

Those who have no point, use Power Point!

Steve Jobs hated Powerpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46427963)

For similar reasons according to his biography.

Powerpoint was the wrong tool for this all along (5, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | about 5 months ago | (#46427967)

The bullet-point presentation was always about presenting evidence and alternatives for an executable decision. Classically, in a hierarchical organization where the receipients of the presentation are the functional leadership who are empowered to make and enforce operational decisions but expect their minions to gather "decision-grade information" and present it in a minimal-overhead, maximal-efficiency format.

It was never about collaboration or exploration. It gets used like that, but it's a terrible fit. It was never intended to encourage discussion. A well-crafted slide deck ends all conversation because all the facts are in. If the leader has to ask questions, or another participant questions your facts or your conclusion, your presentation was sub-optimal.

A bullet-point presentation is supposed to be the shortest path to an incontrovertible and non-debatable decision.

Having done both for a while... (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | about 5 months ago | (#46428005)

Powerpoint is good when the visual material you have is auxiliary. Usually, when the presenter is engaging and articulate, you end up not paying much attention to the slides. The slides then become like index cards for the speaker - they help with the design. They also help 'burn' the content into the audience by keeping points in their field of view long after they were covered verbally.

Chalkboards/Whiteboards are the better choice when visual material is not a supplement but a component of the presentation. What they help do is to turn static content into a narrative. Seeing a hand circle the 'x' in 3x+5=20 makes a stronger impression than to see it circled to begin with.

Re:Having done both for a while... (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 5 months ago | (#46428647)

You know none of that is true. More to the point it has been well documented that PowerPoint presentations convey less information, not more.

Just a Tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428039)

Powerpoint is just a Tool. Some people try to use is to do everything for them, some people use it to just display interesting information to stimulate talk. Powerpoint doesn't make a presentation bad, poor planning/direction/dialogue does.

Re:Just a Tool (1, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 months ago | (#46428379)

Indeed. "A bad workman always blames his tools." If you think my powerpoint is confusing, I've got news for you: my chalk talk is the same level of poor organization, but now it has awful handwriting too.

Next up: physics forum bans verbal or written communication. You have to dance your research.

already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428407)

www.danceyourphd.com

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428049)

Finally particle physicists catch up to something that rocket scientists figured out long ago...
 

PowerPoint? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 5 months ago | (#46428067)

These are freaking scientists; learning to use tex for scientific publishing is first-year undergrad stuff. How would you even draw something like a Feynman diagram in Powerpoint?

Re:PowerPoint? (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about 5 months ago | (#46428303)

Perhaps by using this: http://tx.technion.ac.il/~zvik... [technion.ac.il]
Also, by drawing it in a drawing program and saving it as an image (http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/fimg88.gif).

Note: I am a scientist and use PowerPoint daily. There is a place for each goal:
Giving a scientific talk at a conference (20 minute presentation, 10 minute Q/A) - PowerPoint
Giving a project/program briefing of monthly activity - PowerPoint
Giving a classroom presentation - PowerPoint

It is a good format for one-way presenting. It is not a substitute for dialogue, decision making, collaborative pro/con analysis, or documentation. There are other solutions for that (whiteboard, whiteboard-handout combo, briefing-whiteboard combo, whitepaper, respectively).

Re:PowerPoint? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428409)

Instead of reading the manual for some LaTeX package that draws the kind of diagram you need (if you are lucky) and fighting with the tools you can get the job done by drawing the stuff you need in a decent vector graphics program or even (some people do this to great effect) hand-draw the diagrams using a graphics tablet. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. Not even in science. I tend to use LaTeX when I need lots of formulas but even then I can incorporate the formulas as PDF snippets into my presentations without using LaTeX for the rest. Creating nice slides in LaTeX/Beamer is very time-consuming and when you have bi-weekly meetings it might be just a bad idea to devote so much time to using what some deem to be the right tool for the job. First-year undergrads have more free time than working scientists, mind you. :-)

Use the correct tools for the task at hand (2)

Idarubicin (579475) | about 5 months ago | (#46428083)

  1. I would like to present the results of [experiment].
  2. I would like to lead a group discussion about the implications of [novel hypothesis].
  3. I would like to teach you how to perform [new calculation].
  4. I would like to tell everyone how to comply with [complex new regulations].

...Are at least four very different communication tasks. Some are better accomplished with PowerPoint (or other similar presentation tools) than others. The way that a presenter uses those tools is likely to have a significantly greater impact on the effectiveness of the presentation than the presence or absence of those tools. Uses of the different presentation aids need not be mutually exclusive--PowerPoint decks, whiteboards, handouts, etc. can be used singly or in combination for best effect.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I've been at very productive scientific meetings where someone puts up one or two slides of data and we spend the rest of the time in an open discussion around the whiteboard trying to figure out what it means (and which experiments should come next).

that'l tell Stephen Hawking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428097)

Lazy always wanting to use a computer...

Read Tufte (2)

bmajik (96670) | about 5 months ago | (#46428109)

http://www.edwardtufte.com/tuf... [edwardtufte.com]

I've read the booklet and I found it persuasive.

Tufte (and iirc, Feynman) also cited reliance on Powerpoint on the Columbia disaster

I think it's important to understand what powerpoint is good for. It is good for helping an average presenter guide the delivery of low-bandwidth information into a low-attention span audience who are not subject matter experts.

In other words, it's good for 90% of the people, 90% of the time.

If you are trying to send people to space, or create controlled black holes on the European mainland, do not use it.

Another situation where PP can be used effectively is to present visual information - photos, charts, etc.

Ironically enough, I borrowed the Tufte powerpoint rant from the Microsoft Library here at work :)

Hate them (0)

ledow (319597) | about 5 months ago | (#46428123)

Powerpoint is the last refuge of management.

Sorry, but I don't do Powerpoint presentations. I work in IT. I have need to train people, to convey information, to do all kinds of things.

I've never used Powerpoint for any of that. I don't believe I've "missed out" one bit.

The problem with slideshows is exactly that - they are a slide show. Boring, slow, at the pace of the presenter, and - ultimately - containing so little actual information that you could write them out in five minutes. If you use them at all, use them as "headings" to your talk. And TALK. Don't just read the Powerpoint that you put on the screen. We can all see the fucking thing, we don't need you to narrate what you've written on the slide.

Every time someone tells me that I have to sit through a Powerpoint, I find a way out of it. Every time I see one of those "amazing presentations" by, say, Valve, or Intel, or whoever and it comes with a Powerpoint summary? No. In the bin. It should (and mostly does) lose all context outside of the talk you gave as it should be nothing more than headings. If you're Powerpoints are that fabulous then YOU don't need to be there, standing up and talking. You could have just given us the Powerpoint and left us to read it at our own pace.

The really, really, sad thing? Children are being brought up by Powerpoint nowadays. Schools see them as "lessons". Put up a powerpoint, zip through some pre-prepared slides , how cool am I! Everything from whole-school gatherings to individual tasks to the detentions schedule is displayed as a Powerpoint. And if that isn't bad enough, we have them on loop throughout schools and commercial premises.

A Powerpoint - or, to be more accurate - any piece of presentation software is something pretty to look at. That's it. The information contained within it invariably can be better put across to your audience in a thousand other ways.

Powerpoint is the warning sign of the management devil. Along with policies, mission statements, and all the other buzzwords.

Avoid like the plague. If you want to impart information talk. It doesn't even need to be a dialogue like these people suggest. But if your talk is contained in your presentation, then we don't need your talk. If it's not, then why are you showing it?

Power points == talking points (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 months ago | (#46428149)

Power point is the software embodiment of talking points, the political and marketing strategy for repeating over and over "the message", i.e., the verbiages/phrases to be imprinted in the audience' heads.

It's a propaganda tool, not a discussion tool to encourage understanding.

Slideshow Presentations aren't bad (1)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about 5 months ago | (#46428195)

An effective slide show should not:
Be primary source of information
Exceed 7 words on 4 lines
Contain unrelated graphs and images
Discourage discussion of the slides contents

This is my example of an effective powerpoint slide. This slide while only containing 22 words should probably take a few minutes to talk about. A powerpoint of maybe 10 slides for me often ends up being about an hour long. I build in a degree of Q/A and questions directed to the audience to keep them engaged and interested in the content. A presentation should be a discussion and not a group reading exercise. Clearly these scientists are great at science, but terrible at sharing it if they can't use a slide show effectively.

Re:Slideshow Presentations aren't bad (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 5 months ago | (#46428551)

An effective slide show should not:
Be primary source of information
Exceed 7 words on 4 lines
Contain unrelated graphs and images
Discourage discussion of the slides contents

This is my example of an effective powerpoint slide. This slide while only containing 22 words should probably take a few minutes to talk about. A powerpoint of maybe 10 slides for me often ends up being about an hour long. I build in a degree of Q/A and questions directed to the audience to keep them engaged and interested in the content. A presentation should be a discussion and not a group reading exercise. Clearly these scientists are great at science, but terrible at sharing it if they can't use a slide show effectively.

Two other points
- The rate of slides shown should be approximately one per minute or slower. A presentation going for 10 minutes must max out at 10 slides. (Yes, 7 words on 4 lines on a slide to last one minute is challenging, but doable).
- Generally, use only for short presentations.

The real problem with powerpoint and slide-heavy presentations is it turns into a glorified low-motion TV. People end up tuning out and become really passive and the information starts to fly over their heads because they're really like watching a live taping of a TV show and become a part of the studio audience blindly following orders.

It's great if that's your point - you just want to present something to a passive audience (e.g., keynote speeches to show off new products, etc) where interaction is minimal, beyond "oooh"s and "ahhh"s.

But when a transferral of knowledge is required, interaction is a necessity, and passive TV watching does not lead to effective learning. There were many studies done to show the retention of information is only around 10% or so with slides. Interaction is required to fix the knowledge in the mind.

Any tool can be misused. (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46428197)

There was a time in biology when the movable type made it really cheap to produce books with lots and lots of words. But pictures were very expensive. Botonists everywhere needed an unambiguous way to describe the plants to do the taxonomy and create the cladograms and genus-species classifications. So they came up with tons and tons of terms, like striated, ligule, periole, orbiculer, pinnatisect, ... ( You can see the whole glorious set here [wikipedia.org] ).

Then with the advent of lithography to replace the woodcuts, the price of including diagrams in books started falling. So one would think the botonists everywhere shouted hallelujah and thanked the providence. No. There was serious opposition to these line drawings of simple plant forms to describe the species. They railed that the pictures were a distraction. Pictures are ambiguous(!), Images do not have the clarity of description afforded by the precisely defined technical terms. Pictures are for kids. Not for serious scientists. It took quite a bit of time for images to become common in botony books.

Now a days other than providing a rich source of words to stump the adults and torture small children preparing to be the spelling bee and to weed out the slackers in botony 101, there does not seem to be much use for these terms. (Well, I am not a botonist, and I am sure an army of them are going to rise up and roast me here.)

Power point was a novelty, and suddenly every one can produce slides and make presentations. Most people suck at content creation, and no amount of transition animation and font choices is going to make them better. Good communicators will excel in using power points. Bad ones will suck even with the chalkboard.

I agree most power point presentations are a waste of time. Most of them have very little content. Most of them suck big time. Where I disagree is, blaming the tool for the sins of the tool wielder.

Re:Any tool can be misused. (1)

Tom (822) | about 5 months ago | (#46428433)

I agree most power point presentations are a waste of time. Most of them have very little content. Most of them suck big time. Where I disagree is, blaming the tool for the sins of the tool wielder.

There are, however, good and bad tools. Powerpoint is a bad tool, and it is not by accident that almost all presentations suck, and it's not because everyone is bad at it. The whole program is focussed on being flashy, not on content. There's 50 buttons and options for animations, colour, flash, bling, look-a-three-headed-monkey - and maybe 5 buttons for content. There are plenty of examples included for different visual styles, but none for different methods of content presentation.

And, like almost all Microsoft products, it wants to be everything to everyone. So it doesn't restrict you, but every designer knows that restrictions are great. You can put 9pt fonts on a Powerpoint slide. For 99% of the usage cases, that is an absolutely abysmal idea. But it leads to people misappropriating habits from Word for Powerpoint - if your content doesn't fit, shrink the font size. Ugh.

Re:Any tool can be misused. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46428575)

Good points. True 3 digiter. I can almost hear a boss adding, "can you make it a slide and email it to me? I am meeting budget committee next week".

Use both (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#46428229)

ppt vs chalk-only is a false dichotomy

you can use **both**

this whole thing is about a lack of ability to use a complex communication channel effectively

Business (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about 5 months ago | (#46428243)

In business you often present information on the status of something and then after a dialogue have to decide on actions. Without presentation of data this would not work. Powerpoint is ok as a means of showing data. A blackboard is ok for teaching abstract subjects but probably isnt suitable for subjects that require familiarity with physical objects. Anti Powerpoint crusades are a stupid concept, Powerpoint is fine for many applications.

Joke (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428245)

A business flight over the Pacific developed problems and crashed into the ocean. Three survivors washed up on the beach of an island inhabited by cannibals - an American businessman, a French businessman and a Japanese businessman.

The cannibals had a long-standing tradition that gave each eaten one a last request before eating them.

They went to the French business man first. His last request was for a cigarette. The island was rather close to shipping lanes and many things washed up on the beach and were saved by the cannibals. In short order they had a carton of French cigarettes to grant his last request.

Then they went to the Japanese businessman. His request was a little tougher. When the plane went down he was on a trip to Japan to pitch a new product to investors. He had spent 6 months on a PowerPoint presentation and his last wish was to give that PowerPoint presentation. The island was rather close to shipping lanes and many things washed up on the beach and were saved by the cannibals. They managed to scrounge a generator and a projector and the Japanese businessman had managed to hang onto his laptop with the presentation after the crash. His last wish could be granted.

Then they went to the American businessman for his last request.

"Kill me first!" he said. "There ain't no way I wanna sit through another PowerPoint presentation!"

This is misguided, at best (2)

Huntr (951770) | about 5 months ago | (#46428255)

PPT is a tool, nothing more. People either use it effectively or they don't. If they don't, that's hardly the fault of the tool. There are plenty of people who use PPT well giving presentations, seminars, interactive talks every single day.

My suggestion: get better speakers.

Re:This is misguided, at best (2)

beatle42 (643102) | about 5 months ago | (#46428319)

The people presenting are not professional presenters, they're researchers communicating their research. They should not be replaced because they're not great presenters, that's not what their job is. If a tool gets in the way more often than it helps, it should probably be removed. Further, this article suggests that it's the audience's fault at least in part since they consume a presentation differently when there's a PowerPoint presentation rather than a chalkboard talk. Should we also get a better audience?

Re:This is misguided, at best (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about 5 months ago | (#46428607)

My suggestion: get better speakers.

My suggestion: study Edward Tufte's site [http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/ [edwardtufte.com] ]. Read some of his books ("The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" is especially good), then get back to us.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428267)

Excellent pamphlet about PowerPoint by Edward Tufte.

http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_pp

In other related news... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 5 months ago | (#46428275)

Fermilab struggles to find enough funds to maintain their conference Audio Visual equipment and has discontinued providing video projectors for lectures to save money. Facing difficult economic conditions and funding shortages has forced a re-prioritization of how money is spent on technology.

"Others are claiming this is about not wanting to use Power Point," said one A/V technician "but I can assure you it is about saving money. We are simply not replacing any projector lamps and as existing equipment stops working we are taking down the projection screens and uncovering the chalk boards they cover."

"Chalk is cheep!" said another.

Loophole Abuse (1)

Number42 (3443229) | about 5 months ago | (#46428309)

They can't object to anyone using Google Slides/Keynote/LibreOffice, then, right?

Poor excuse (1)

QuantumSam (1069182) | about 5 months ago | (#46428325)

The ban is just an excuse for poor presenters: PowerPoint does not kill people - bad PowerPoint presentations kill people. I myself just make slides to generate some interest, and leave a trail of the discussion point. During the presentation, I stay within certain limitations, but always veer and steer depending on the audience. That means I never give the same presentation twice. It's all on how you build the slides and how you use them. So don't blame the tool. Blame the dumb-ass using the tool. Now on the down side, I've been in an auditorium with 300 scientists and NASA engineers and after giving a talk for 30 mins, the only questions I get are ones I already discussed and and answered during the talk.

Scott McNealy: Dump PP to increase productivity (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 5 months ago | (#46428343)

Some years ago an article mentioned Scott McNealy noticed amount of data being sent back and forth, and also amount of time people spending on preparing PPT. So he banned Powerpoint and there was noticeable increase in productivity, people actually doing stuff instead of futzing with PPT slides (though I also heard there was zero MS products on desktop computers at Sun so not sure how PPT was originally in place). For me when I do PPT, I typically do it in MS Word with pages in landscape orientation, then save it as PDF. When I gotta do PPT, I try to keep minimal cutesy graphics.

But maybe the whole concept of PPT type slides including old school viewgraphs and charts leads to people making bullet lists that contain contradictions. Like what Feynman pointed out of a slide NASA used for describing Shuttle ops and priorities and he marked two sentences that contradict each other, which was a contributing factor of leading to dangerous situations. I can't remember the details but it was one of those "yeow, we actually made that mistake?!?" moments.

good riddance (1)

Tom (822) | about 5 months ago | (#46428389)

Powerpoint is for sales presentations to a large and anonymous audience. Basically, when you want to be Steve Jobs(1). In a small meeting, or something with interactivity, Powerpoint is probably the most misused tool on the planet today.

(1) Actually, if you want to give a professional presentation, you'll use Keynote, but if you want to be a cheap ripoff, you'll use Powerpoint.

Re:good riddance (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 5 months ago | (#46428545)

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make as Keynote is basically just Apple's version of PowerPoint. They both do the same exact thing. Misuse is not PowerPoint's fault. Just like it isn't Keynote fostering the creation of better-looking presentations. That's generally the result of designers typically being Apple devotees and as gravitating towards all things Apple. Of course, they're going to have a much better eye for what constitutes a good presentation. That said, I've seen some bad Keynote presentations. Actually, the best presentations I've seen were created using online services. But again, that's thanks to designers being heavily involved and in some cases those being promotional pieces.

It almost always comes down to how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

Same goes for UML apps (1)

Mark Ramirez (3567457) | about 5 months ago | (#46428449)

I had a similar situation with U.M.L. I do like the software apps., but, many times, I have to work with a whiteboard, and many of my collegues are too much "attached" to use a laptop or desktop pc, or projector.

Powerpoints are bad for speech good for studying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428455)

I annotate Powerpoints that my professors make available and then I use them to study. Professors who parrot slides are often too lazy to come up with a real lesson plan, it's not even worth attending class with a professor like that.

Starting Point (2)

tranquilidad (1994300) | about 5 months ago | (#46428477)

I used to give presentations to our customers and prospects in our "Corporate Visit Center" and was always extremely disappointed with the dog-and-pony shows I experienced. The problem goes well beyond PowerPoint and gets into people who have no idea how to present an idea. I'd follow speakers who would have 100 slides for a 45 minute presentation, average 3-4 minutes per slide and then wonder why they were behind schedule.

I would show up with my PowerPoint presentation queued up and then I would challenge the audience to ask enough questions to be able to break free from it. After a while I got pretty good at never even getting past the title slide before breaking into a back-and-forth discussion and white-board diagramming. I consistently rated as the most popular speaker because I didn't walk in and present to the audience - I engaged and would talk about anything they wanted to talk about.

I remember a new guy came on board and he was sent to watch me after I was billed as the best presenter. He reported back that I never got past the first slide and the response from my manager was, "Exactly!"

PowerPoint is just one symptom of a larger problem: the inability to interact with an audience and discuss what they want to discuss. Even for those who needed PowerPoint in order to present I would coach them to not read the slides. The audience will read the words on the slides as you speak. The presenter should be telling a story that engages an audience - the presentation can be used as reminder points to the speaker or as either supplemental content for the audience to read or important/complex points you want them to take home for later study.

Learn to use PowerPoint. (2)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 5 months ago | (#46428483)

Having sat through far too many PowerPoint meetings, I've found that the problem isn't PowerPoint itself, but that most people have a compulsion to cram far too much information onto each slide. It basically gets turned into a teleprompt. So what ends up happening is that by the time the presenter done regurgitating what's on the screen everyone's already read through it all.

PowerPoint is best used to convey overarching themes and talking points. It frames what the presenter is going to say and helps emphasize critical points. This PowerPoint ban essentially produces the same net result, but what people really need is to learn how to use the application.

Oh No! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428631)

We here at the large corporation I work at were evaluating PowerPoint but now that Fermilab has banned it, thats all we need to know. If those guys wont use it, it ~must~ be bad!

In other news, The Rotary Club of California has decided to go with staplers made by Acme corporation and has banned paper clips. Companies across the country have been watching this decision closely and most are expected to follow suit.

good riddance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46428633)

To bad rubbish. Has anyone seriously seen a good PowerPoint presentation? They are used specifically for bad reasons; it's a way to not look or care about your audience during public speaking. It's also used by people who practice passive-aggressive learning with a lazy attempt to be contemporary. Unfortunately for all of us the professionals and so-called doers of our society couldn't lead a pack of dogs to a pile of delicious steaks. Giving them this tool doesn't make it any better, but at least it gives credit to dystopian literature

PowerPoint? Really? (2)

liamoohay (765499) | about 5 months ago | (#46428673)

Doesn't everybody use Beamer nowadays?
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