Edward Tufte takes a clear stance on the disadvantages of PowerPoint presentation in The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. Tufte argues that the presentation format of PowerPoint by default is deeply flawed. He illustrates this point through an example concerning NASA and the 2003 Columbia explosion. Largely due to the dissemination of information through PowerPoint slides, the severity of a life threatening problem was overlooked. Tufte makes clear that this information presented via a statistical report was able to iterate the problem but translated to a PowerPoint deck the critical information was lost, in a large part due to presetation and template formats of the program.
How should PowerPoint be used?
Like most things FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. This is the basis of the two key concepts can be extracted from Tufte’s argument.
- Function: PowerPoint has no place in a highly scientific, technical or serious presentation.
- Form: If the function of the report is determined to be suited for PowerPoint attention to form must be mastered to ensure the tool is being used to enhance and not hinder the presentation.
Tufte touches on the fact that the visual representation of information can be extremely powerful but that great caution and consideration must be use in doing so. The medium must not be overused and should be looked at as a way to present information, not translate information. Therefore, if information is better represented in a detailed report, said report is the proper format and the content has no place within PowerPoint. Furthermore, for information less serious in tone PowerPoint presentation software can be used as an aid but only after great thought is put forth to formatting the aiding information.
PowerPoint for my presentation?
I take Tufte’s point very seriously in terms of thinking about how I will structure my oral presentation. The results of my research need to be taken seriously by the clients implementing them and therefore I’m not convinced PowerPoint is right for my report. As well, since my report topic is how business can use video-sharing platforms like YouTube I think a better presentation of my oral presentation would majority video based with only text based information if strongly necessary. In the end, I feel this will not only avoid the pitfalls of PowerPoint presentation as Tufte illustrates but greatly add to the effectiveness of my report.
Tufte, E. (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Picthing out corrupst within. (2 ed., pp. 1-31). Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC.