Tuesday, September 14, 2010

PPT… the powerful point

I always considered PPT as a tool.  It is so powerful that we ask people to do power point by which we mean they should make presentation. Tool became the verb!.  I have mastered the art of ppt and was adept in using its several features like animations, motion paths, hyperlinks, inserting control/navigational buttons etc and finally found out that a black board (now a days everything is white) and a piece of chalk (read white board marker pen) is the most powerful tool to express yourself.  Once, I went to deliver a guest lecture in a small time management school.  When my office asked me to do that job I prepared a very elaborate and technically superior ppt so as to impress the students thinking that they being management students will give me accolades.  When I went there, I learnt that they do not have the projector and still operating the overhead projector for projecting the transparencies!  I almost collapsed out of surprise for their respect for tradition (if old things can be dubbed so) and disappointment for not able to entice the students with my PPTability.  Poor course coordinator offered to convert my ppt into transparencies which I declined out of vengeance and frustration.  I went on with green board (neither black nor white … something like intermediate technology). 

I remembered all this yesterday when I read article  by Ravi Subramanian in ET (13 Sept 2010) titled:

Death By PowerPoint: Beware of a presentation-dominated culture. 

I cannot agree more with the author and he echoed some of the feelings I often expressed to my colleagues.  I my office I have seen people copasting (copy pasting) long passages in a single slide with letters that appear smaller than ants to a person with 100/6 vision sitting 6 ft away. Their duty is to make ppt and not to communicate.  Tool is mistaken for the message. Similarly, scores of slides packed for a 15 minutes slot.  When I chaired a session in a conference last year, I found it really difficult and painful to ration time to people who came with unending ppt for 10 minutes slot.  And each slide packs volumes of information cluttered around. Ideally one should have minimum number of slides with each slide carrying a few lines or still better a few communicative drawings/pictures.  If presenting in a conference/seminar, better to highlight results in first 3 - 4 slides and keep the latter slides for explaining the methods, etc. and keep a few reserve slides for answering possible supplementaries.  Ultimately, our motto should not be communication or no communication, ppt zindabad.  But, ppt or no ppt, I should communicate effectively.  This reminds me of my teacher Shri Nagabhushanam who taught Botany  in our 9th standard in High School at Ichchhapuram. He explained us the cross section of a leaf without getting up from his chair and we all could visualise how the CS looked without seeing any diagram/picture. 

The strength of your project lies not in the ppt, but in its content. I recently heard that the shortest ppt a person presented in  a seminar has only a single slide! Wow!