I gave a talk recently on “PowerPoint for Haters.” It was designed to do just what it sounds like. Challenge people who disdain the program to rethink their attitude. I specifically wanted to talk to designers who have an entrenched dislike for the program, and with the many ways the world abuses PowerPoint it’s hard to fault them their perceptions. To them it’s like asking them to design a brochure in Word.

So we showed some great design work we did, talked about how some came from traditional design programs and some was understanding the right way to use the program to tell stories. One thing we emphasized was limiting copy.

During Q&A a woman said that she worked in academia, and often the researchers in her department used it to give very technically dense presentations, and then they posted it online for those who could not attend. “A lot is lost when the person isn’t there to present it,” she said. You can’t get what you need from just reading the PowerPoint.

She’s right. You can’t get what you need from trying to read a presentation on its own. It needs context. In my mind, the program wasn’t created to be a standalone tool, it is best when it is an enhancement to a speaker, to drive home points, not make them on its own. This is an entire topic of debate, but for my money, the problem she described is the reason research and white papers were created. If you couldn’t make the talk (where I’m sure you saw too much information anyway), you need a different format to convey the information.