Think about the last time you were sitting in on a PowerPoint presentation.
Keep thinking about it while you answer the following questions.
What was the goal of the presentation? (Psst…it was probably to tell you something.)
What was on the slides? (Psst…it probably consisted of a ton of words, bullet points, and graphs.)
Who did the talking? (Uh…probably the guy giving the presentation?)
PowerPoint presentations are often used as a teaching tool to aid in learning. More often than not though, they hinder people from it.
Ironically, 99.9% of consultants use PowerPoint (that number has not been validated), so it’s strange that this news is coming from a consultant. If you’re confused, read my context post.
In order to understand why PowerPoint sucks at helping people get your message, it helps to dive into a bit of learning theory.
There’s a famous Chinese proverb (or Ben Franklin quote according to some people):
Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.
Now, that quote is far from scientific, and may be some old Chinese man’s opinion, but that is something that I can relate to. I know that when I am allowed to be a part of the learning journey instead of a recipient, I retain more information.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from famous learning theorists like Jerome Bruner, who argued that “Practice in discovering for oneself teaches one to acquire information in a way that makes the information more readily viable in problem solving” (Bruner, 1961, p. 26).
We process visuals 60,000 times faster than words – Google it.
Instead of writing a bunch of words, I’m show a picture that Mike Parkinson, founder of Billion Dollar Graphics (source) uses.
Another thing I am going to let you Google, but will give you the synopsis on, is the fact that different people learn differently.
Some people learn by talking. Some people learn by seeing a visual. Some people learn by touching. Some people learn with data. Some people learn by sorting.
So ideally, if you’re teaching a bunch of people, you want a learning experience that includes multiple modalities.
Now that we’ve gone through a crash course in learning design 101, let’s see if PowerPoint has these three traits of a good learning experience.
Does PowerPoint use self-discovery? (No.)
Does PowerPoint use visualization? (Yes, but usually it’s a lot of words.)
Is PowerPoint interactive? (A resounding no.)
And so, PowerPoint sucks.
Steven Choi works at Root, Inc. A Strategy Execution Firm. He helps employees learn through self-discovery, visualization, and interactivity.
- Bruner, J. S. (1961). “The act of discovery”. Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21–32.
Right Connects Visual Communication Blog https://rhdeepexploration.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/visuals-60000-times-faster/