At the risk of being sent a walker for my next birthday, let me state that I am old enough to remember life before PowerPoint. I cut my presenting teeth on CorelDraw v1.0 and Harvard Graphics. I have destroyed photocopiers printing nasty black and white overheads, and I have used a nail file to repair a 35mm slide projector.
So when I consider PowerPoint and the effortless way it allows me to make, revise, deliver and share a presentation, I see a wonderful, powerful communication tool that most of us take for granted and some of us abuse.
If you are a terrible presenter, PowerPoint will not fix you. If you cannot communicate, PowerPoint will not teach you. If you can’t tell a story, PowerPoint will not do it for you. If you are boring, PowerPoint will not make you interesting. In case you were wondering, Word will not make you a novelist, Photoshop will not make you a designer and parking an airplane in your driveway will not make you a pilot.
Organizing your thoughts, expressing them in a few, well-chosen and compelling words and telling a story that captivates, amuses, educates, frightens or enlightens an audience is hard work. It requires training and it requires practice. PowerPoint is the repository for this, not the enabler.
I agree that PowerPoint has become an unfortunate choice for people who lack the skill or the inclination to write complex planning documents. But I respectfully suggest the problem here is that their Corporate Overlords have not only tolerated the over-simplification of everything, but have encouraged and rewarded it in the name of productivity or cool slide transitions.
The U.S. Army should not be banning PowerPoint. They, and, most corporations, should be teaching their staff how to communicate, setting a standard for excellence and rewarding the people who meet that standard. Let’s stop punishing people for using the tools we gave them.
And if you are feeling as though all the great presenters in the world have given up or gone home, go watch some of the TED Talks. It restores your faith in the spoken word.