back to article Anti-PowerPoint Party vows end to death by slides

Everybody complains about PowerPoint presentations. But nobody does anything about them – until now. Meet Switzerland's Anti-PowerPoint Party, aka the APPP. "The APPP sees itself as the advocate of approximately 250 Million people worldwide, who, every month, are obliged to be present during boring presentations in companies, …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While they're at it

    Let's get rid of sodding spreadsheets as well.

    Then we might get some actual work done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: While they're at it

      Yes, if your job is making mince. Or spoons.

      But if it's accountancy, I'm not so sure lol ;-)

      1. The Indomitable Gall
        Stop

        Accountants shouldn't use spreadsheets.

        @AC,

        Accounts are the very last place we should be seeing spreadsheets, because you are effectively writing a database.

        You are coding a database:

        A) without documentation

        and

        B) without any data constraints

        and

        C) without automated backup strategies.

        Spreadsheets give users enough rope to hang themselves... from the moon.

  2. Mermaid Dick
    Facepalm

    A political party??

    Chalk and blackboard are nice for small audiences. If someone in the audience is rude, I can always throw the sponge at him.

    Flipover for 200+ people? I don't believe it. Not even in Switzerland.

    Referendum next, I guess.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      "99 out of 100"

      The vast majority of PowerPoint presentations are delivered to small groups in small rooms, so 200+ people isn't relevant in 99% of cases.

      That said, interactive whiteboard software can be used to replicate the flipchart experience in larger rooms....

  3. skeptical i
    Meh

    Those who can, present; those who can't, powerpoint.

    A small syllable in defense of presentation software: for presenting graphics and charts, it IS cheaper than using markers and flipcharts (or those huge sticky pads) or printing out individual copies; if one is presenting often (as a travelling show or to update people every week) those flipcharts and giant sticky pads add up. *sigh* That does not mean that that presentations have to be done badly, though.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Yes...

      But the problem with Power Point is that people don't stick to using it for what it's good at. They insist of using it to present a cliff notes version of their lecture. That's even how kids are taught to use it in school (I've seen that with my own eyes while working in one). Charts? Graphs? Maybe the odd picture that illustrates a point? Sure. What it actually gets used for? Please no.

      1. The Alpha Klutz
        Mushroom

        Yes it's true

        Schools are actually teaching kids to write their talk out in condensed bullet point, 'PowerPoint', format *first*, and then extrapolate the details out *later*, 'on the fly', when they present the talk.

        You only need half a brain to know that's backwards. Kids are actually being ordered to 'wing it'. If they disobey that order (and it is an order, in the absolute pettiest sense), they are expelled. Sorry, 'given the choice to leave school', as it is now called. (Ask the parents of any recently expelled child).

        And then we wonder why no one respects the British work force. People who behave this way do not deserve respect. They don't even deserve self respect. And they will get neither.

        I mean, how does one arrive at the condensed version of something before they've bothered to finish the full version? You've not got a summary, you've got unfinished work. I never give credit for unfinished work. (But schools do, indeed they insist on it). This is yet another example of how schools are enslaving the minds of todays youth. Completely on purpose I might add.

        If you are going to sit there and crow about how great schools are in the UK, I dare you to visit one and see for yourself what happens in 2011. I double dare you.

        1. The Indomitable Gall
          FAIL

          Re: yes it's true.

          "Schools are actually teaching kids to write their talk out in condensed bullet point, 'PowerPoint', format *first*, and then extrapolate the details out *later*, 'on the fly', when they present the talk.

          You only need half a brain to know that's backwards. "

          Well, I'm doing an Open University degree, and I did another degree ten years ago, and I went to school in the 80s and 90s, and that's basically what I was always told to do -- they called it "writing a plan". The open secret is that no-one writes a plan and no-one writes pseudo-code, and if the teacher demands to see it, we write it *after* finishing the body of the assignment.

          My current degree is in languages, and for our spoken assignments, we're asked to write in notes only, and there's no discussion about writing the full speech then summarising it in notes. But everyone on the course writes the full script -- another open secret.

          So it would appear that PowerPoint is worse than I thought: it implements the worst flaws of the UK education system in software....

  4. alwarming
    Joke

    AFP (Anti-Facebook Party) anyone ?

    For gazillions of euros worth of productivity wasted ?

    1. Rick Brasche
      Happy

      that's already out there.

      it's called "Websense".

    2. nyelvmark
      Thumb Down

      It's not wasted, my friend

      ...we make very good use of every Eurocent, supporting those businesses who are forwarding the European Ideal, and imposing penalties upon those like you, who are trying to detract from it. You people are the scum of the Earth. You would see us descend into the utter anarchy that we had before the EU.

      If you want to see Netherlanders once again offering "roasted Turk" as a roadside meal; if you would be happy to see the Spanish government sentencing all Catalans to death just for being Catalan; if you would like to see Brussels prostitutes charging 30 euro just for a blow job; if you would like to see BAe systems reduced to a mere manufacturer, at the cost of billions of invisible dollars that boost the economies of emerging EU countries - fine. But I'm not with you, and nor are any of my friends.

      Rupert Jobsworth - deputy assistant to the director (office cleaning optimisation advisory executive, European Commission).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    I can't believe I'm about to defend PowerPoint...

    ...but there is nothing wrong with PowerPoint. It is simply a tool. If you smash your finger with a hammer, you don't curse at the hammer. When used well (and correctly) PowerPoint can be an excellent tool to *assist* a presenter.

    If your presentation is boring that just means *you* are boring. And that's hardly PowerPoint's fault.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: I can't believe I'm about to defend PowerPoint...

      I agree. If he's anything like me, I think Mr Poehm, leader of the APPP, has more of an issue, perfectly legitimately, with the kinds of workplaces and work and language used in those places, and PowerPoint just somehow symbolically embodies those unsuitable and hated jobs/roles/places.

      In a sense, actually, (again if he's anything like me) what offends him about those workplaces is the affront to one's narcissism which comes from their obscurity - again, reinforced by the "being-an-audience" which the PowerPoint implies, I wonder if that point is proved by this guy setting up an international political party which will get him a lot of attention. Thoughts anyone?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My biggest gripe...

        ... is people writing things in Powerpoint that they could have written in Word, then giving a talk in which they read it out loud for twenty minutes while they could have just given out the word file and it would take 2 minutes to read.

        The problem is that people see Powerpoint has an option to make text bounce in while swirling around and assume that this somehow helps get across the content of the text.

    2. Matthew Malthouse

      When used well

      How often does that happen?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re : How often does that happen?

        ALL my presentations

    3. stucs201

      re: hammers

      I might not want hammers banned just to prevent me smashing my fingers with them. However if other people routinely used hammers to smash my fingers I might want something done about it...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      It Depends

      If the someone is using the tool or the user is a tool.

    5. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      2 points...

      • Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

      • Wasn't PowerPoint originally developed by a Swiss company before MS bought it up? I suppose that I could do some research to check this point but I couldn't be arsed.

    6. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: I can't believe I'm about to defend PowerPoint...

      AC,

      You might want to get a hold of the essay "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" by Edward Tufte. He demonstrates how PowerPoint itself encourages certain behaviours on the part of the presenter.

      If it's a hammer, it's a hammer that comes with the instruction: "also functions as a screwdriver. Hit screwhead several times to drive screws into wood, plastic, rubber or cows."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Powrepoint is just a tool

    It's mainly the people creating the presentations at fault. It can help to give visual aids when trying to explain something to a group of people but most powerpoints are just bulleted text with the odd graph thrown in with the person giving the presentation merely repeating what you can read on the screen. I don't need somebody telling me what I have already read before they started speaking, they might as well have just emailed me the information and saved me the time.

  7. K. Adams
    Go

    "...finally people start talking widely and deeply about [the PowerPoint] problem."

    Sounds good...

    However, to facilitate our discussion on PowerPoint, could you summarise the main issues as bullet-points in a LibreOffice Impress presentation, and set up a meeting?

  8. Steen Hive
    Thumb Up

    Sign me up!

    Atrocious presentation method and software!

  9. Mike Powers

    Dogma 2011

    Anyone remember the old "Dogma 95" film movement? There must just be something about Europeans and technology that doesn't mix.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so finally last year....

    No presentation is cool unless its a Prezi presentation these days apparently. Or so our slightly obsessed directors seem to think anyway.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PowerPoint used right is not actually a problem

    it's slides to use as a basis for your presentation. It's not the script that you read aloud, but the skeleton upon which you elaborate.

    And the number one thing that PowerPoint is not, is a page layout tool. Seriously, stop doing that.

    1. Richard 81

      But!

      "And the number one thing that PowerPoint is not, is a page layout tool. Seriously, stop doing that."

      Use it all the time for scientific posters. Won an award for one them.

      Poor scientists can't afford (the money and time to get good at) anything better and a crap poster is the fault of the designer anyway.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    "Powerpoint culture"

    In 2006, an RAF Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan, killing all on board.

    There was an inquiry, chaired by Charles Haddon Cave (a lawyer, and seemingly one of the few good ones).

    The report was published in 2009. It concluded that the crash was largely avoidable, and one of the major factors which had meant that it had not been avoided when it should have been avoided was the "Powerpoint culture" in BAe and Qinetic, where a few bullet points on a few PPT slides were considered an acceptable substitute for properly documented fact-based engineering risk analysis.

    The inquiry report was unusually blunt. It even named names, and I do recollect (but cannot confirm) that some of those named were actually arrested. Don't know what happened after that, which is a shame.

    The Haddon-Cave report, in full, well worth a read:

    http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc0809/hc10/1025/1025.pdf

    Trotskyist Rag editorial, with links to other coverage:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/29/nimrod-crash-inquiry-raf-afghanistan e.g. "The report describes a PowerPoint culture in government that glosses over hard questions and detailed evidence, and sacrifices safety to incompetence, sloppiness, complacency and cynicism. The catastrophe was caused as much by organisational culture as the faulty fuel seal. Responsibility is shared between BAE Systems, the hived-off QinetiQ which was supposed to provide expert advice, the Nimrod Integrated Project Team and the Ministry of Defence itself, stricken by "organisational trauma" induced by the overwhelming objective of finding savings."

    Coverage in The Register: [none]

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Unfair sirrah!

    Hardly PowerPoints fault that most of its users tend to dullwittery now is it.

    Now had the Party decided a name along lines of:

    Anti-Death by dull-witted PowerPoint users Party

    or

    Avoiding Death by PowerPoint users

    ?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Must admit I agree

    And it's not just Microsoft's tool. As pointed out in the article, Apple's Keynote isn't any better. Likewise with {Open,Libra}Office Impress and even LaTeX Beamer. Overhead projector slides would have the same problem.

    It takes a very skillful presenter to use these tools effectively. 6.5 years at university told me that very few people are able to do so. Having read this piece and having a think, I include myself as being one of the people who can't really use them … some of the better presentations I've given, used little more than a few pens and a white board.

    In fact, I can't think of too many examples where the slides *have* helped. The only time the slides have been useful is for later review of the lecture or presentation, and slides are actually pretty poor at that too.

    Notes generated (and distributed in PDF or similar open formats) using a tool such as Writer or LaTeX, (or Word, for those married to the Redmond software stack) would have worked better, as there's a lot more you can say on an A4 sheet of paper than can be said on an overhead slide.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Letters and numbers or digits oh my

    If you replaced the labels on that diagram with names of A/V equipment, it could be my home theater audio wiring.

  16. Brennan Young

    It's not just a tool

    ... it's a culture.

    I really don't buy this 'just a tool' argument. It's not like a hammer with a wide range of uses, some of them harmful, it's more like a garroting chair. Yes, the latter is 'just a tool', but it rather imposes certain ways of persuading or manipulating both users and ...er... audience.

    A decently designed tool subtly or overtly guides use in such a way that the results are usually good, and you have to work hard to get really bad results. (Example - an electric kettle, or even ElReg's forums, which while it's not anywhere near as good as a mediocre nntp client for actual discussion, does an acceptable job of fielding responses from readers, which was doubtless the spec).

    Powerpoint (keynote, etc.) might have become more colourful and decorative since the early days, but it's essentially unchanged: It makes hot air go much further, and offers weight and density when real substance is lacking. And this is why people like it.

    I fully agree with Mr Longland. Slides are usually not necessary, they usually detract from or muddle the speaker's message, and few speakers, if any, have the skill (and *discipline*) required to use them effectively.

    I work as a teacher, and the tendency (and temptation) to use powerpoint is very strong. After almost 10 years of boycotting MS Office entirely. I was briefly persuaded to use ppts by the way they could be repurposed to provide notes for those who missed the lecture, until I realised that my lectures had become mechanical, inflexible and ponderous. (I could even hypothesise some folks started missing my lectures for this reason).

    After one session when it appeared that all the projectors were producing a blurry image, and where we could have spent the whole time troubleshooting (turned out someone had helpfully 'wiped' the lenses with a non lint-free cloth) - I said "sod the slides, let's get on with the lecture" and I was reminded what a pleasure it is to wander amongst the students making more personal contact, picking up on body language responses and so on. The feedback from the students was terrific. I immediately decided to drop powerpoint - and return to my older teaching style which had served me so well for so long.

    Now I am thinking that twitter is probably a better tool - the audience can make their own notes, and share them with each other, making the feed available to whomever afterwards. I can drop in urls if necessary, but I don't even need to use a screen. Will do some testing with this technique next semester.

    AC's reminiscence of powerpoint culture in the military is sobering. I remember that story breaking, and I thought "OK, now maybe something will happen" but somehow the culture remains. Well, Microsoft PR might have spun the story, but I think the problem is more that organisations are actually *addicted* to Powerpoint. Remove it, and most of its users will be revealed to be little more than charlatans, and that in turn will make the organisations look bad. So I guess we're stuck. Maybe a few more air crashes will help.

    1. Mike Powers

      Twitter instead of Powerpoint?

      So let me get this straight. You think that putting things onto slides is too limiting so you're going to use Twitter? You think that Powerpoint encourages "factoid assimilation" over understanding, so you're going to boil everything down to 140-character talking points?

      "A decently designed tool subtly or overtly guides use in such a way that the results are usually good, and you have to work hard to get really bad results."

      Spoken like a person who's never used a hammer to drive a nail.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Our survey says

    I've had the recent honour of compiling a list of critical files in our business... (sob)

    The number of areas who answered the survey with ppt files was staggering, especially after I explained to them that it was only files that would make their business unit fall over if they didn't have them.

    "But all our docs are in PowerPoint!"

    I wish I was joking.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Can I...

    Add MS Project to the list? It's a usefull tool in the right hands (ooh, err), but the number of time I've seen project plans that were created only as a tick in the box when reporting to upper management, often with no bearing on the reality of the project.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting, can they cc their slides?

    "by assuming that presentations take place in 11 per cent of companies [...] averaging twice a week, and that the average number of attendees is 10 [...] then assumes that 85 per cent of participants believe these presentations are killing motivation"

    That's a lot of assumptions. These guys should work as lawyers for the MPAA/RIAA.

    And I agree with some others: if YOU are boring, don't blame Powerpoint. If YOU are going to read your notes in a monotone voice, I'd even think that not having any slides projected on the wall would make matters worse. I have to agree that the example slide is appaling, but that's hardly PP's fault. And besides, context please: maybe the slide was aimed at showing the over-complexity of the organisation, in which case it does a very good job at that.

    So assuming that APPP has indeed 250M members, assuming that each one of them spends 10 hours a week doing APPP work and assuming that half of them are likewise incapable of making a good fair unbiased point that makes a difference, that's 65 billion wasted hours per year.

  20. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Mushroom

    I can put up with PP

    I can tolerate Powerpoint when the slides are made by someone with just a smidgen of creativity but sadly this is very rare!

    The top 5 things that will get you a smack in the face!

    1. Fade in text ( looks like the fade in's they used on Swap-Shop back in the 80's! ) - DIE!

    2. Drop/scolldown down text items - DIE!

    3. Bullet points with those stupid dual-tone arrows - DIE!

    4. Fade in ultra-low quality JPGs made with a camera phone circa 2001 - DIE!

    5. Shitty humour(less) clipart, borrowed circa 1991, that has hideous jagged edges, designed to inject a few laughs into a dull presentation - DIE DIE DIEEEEEEE!!!!!

    1. Desperate Olive
      Mushroom

      Terrible Cliparts

      I agree, the worst are those cliparts that some feel is mandatory to be included in a way or another on each and every slide.

      BTW PP is a very good tool for... drawing schematics that you can then copy-paste (paste special as DIB) in a document - far better than Word with which drawing is just a bloody non-funny joke. And then you can also use Excel to write letters (true story). Long live MS office!

  21. ganymede io device

    More than a Talking Head

    Proof that PP is a tool ?

    http://www.davidbyrne.com/art/eeei/views/eeei_still6.php

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    I don't quite understand their policies

    Do they have a powerpoint presentation that explains them?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dave Gorman

    is the only person that knows how to use Powerpoint properly.

  24. mattblack
    FAIL

    piss poor example, again

    Every time someone in TheReg wants to diss (deservedly) powerpoint they roll out the Afghan Dynamics slide (the one with the spaghetti mess of arrows).

    This is a really poor example of why powerpoint is bad. Bad powerpoint is mostly about superficiality and skipping over detail. The Afghan Dynamics picture (apart from, as far as I know, not actually being a powerpoint slide and being entirely unreadable as one) is the opposite: it presents a rich and compelling web of evidence about an almost intractable problem.

    So please stop using it as evidence for the prosecution. The Edward Tufte examples are much better: http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB&topic_id=1

  25. rh587 Silver badge

    It is a tool, but in moderation

    I remember one of my first lectures at uni where we delved into some concept. Didn't understand a word that the (very good Researcher/not very good Lecturer) said. Then he popped up a diagram and it all dropped into place. Result :)

    He used in carefully though. Photos or graphs on powerpoint, everything else verbal or worked through on the blackboard.

    I use it for supporting diagrams and graphs, but make judicious use of the White-out function. Pop a graph up whilst its relevant, then blank the screen - they're supposed to be listening to me, not drifting off into space, staring at the pretty picture.

    If I'm delivering a presentation, then I do need to actually deliver it. If I'm putting all the bullet points up, I might as well have just e-mailed them the script/notes and they can stay at home.

  26. rh587 Silver badge
    Pint

    Use it all the time for scientific posters.

    Yeah. Same here. I mean, I had a copy of Publisher, but loads of others used Powerpoint. Our tutor advised us that "CorelDraw is the industry standard".

    Yeah. Right, like we have the time or inclination to go out, spend money on, and learn a totally new tool. We're students of science, not philosophy! We were all wading our way through MATLAB tutorials at the time.

    There's a fine line between managing with the wrong tool and spending so long learning the proper tool that any time saving is gone.

    We all got good marks - content is king, as well as bearing in mind the most important lesson - assume your readers have had a couple of glasses of wine, and pitch your posters accordingly.

  27. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    le Tit again

    People can't look and listen at the same time. Visual takes priority, so ANY presentation is going to override what is being said.

    There is an amusing demo of this - don't know where now :( Someone says what a displayed graphic is and you have to note down what was said. However each time a new graphic comes up there is a greater likelihood of the two not being the same. People almost always write what they see, not what they hear.

  28. Reticulate

    No escape from Power Point.

    At a wedding reception a few years ago I swear that when the first speaker got up the eyes of 70% of those present flicked to the wall behind him to see the first slide.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Powerpoint Rangers

    Oh come now, someone remember this

  30. Rick Brasche

    its mostly blocked at work but..

    isn't this mostly satirical like the Pirate Party? It seems like a few Reg commentators are taking it seriously..

  31. Dave 62

    yawn

    Started watching video, bored after less than a minute. Could have done with some slides to spice it up.

  32. Dave 62

    let's not forget....

    Essentially it is all down to the presenter (Re: my above comment, this guy is boring by the way.. he does what for a living?) and bad presenters will lean on powerpoint making the presentation worse. Then there's slide design. I recently interviewed for a pretty darned good graduate job (which I got) one of the other candidates gave a presentation with a red-blue gradient background, it was illegible... but I don't think he performed too strongly in any other aspects, presentations reflect the presenter.

    Let's not forget Colonel Lawrence Sellin who spoke out against powerpoint briefings in the joint-watchamacallit thingy in Afghanida.

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Colonel-Lawrence-Sellin/155619744453235?sk=info

  33. Schultz
    Boffin

    Couldn't follow

    He talked more than 2 minutes, and he didn't even give an introductory slide telling me what it's all about. How am I supposed to follow this monologue? If he wants to bring his points across, he better use some kind of numbered list, or something!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Great when the user knows what it's designed to do...

    Working in print, design, & marketing company, we're CONSTANTLY getting '<insert expletive>' clients sending in PowerPoint files as "print ready setups".

    We get business cards and all kinds of artwork supplied in PowerPoint, Word and even Excel (yea i shit you not, EXCEL)!

    It gets REALLY tedious telling them that the images they've spent hours placing have been destroyed upon embedding them in the document and in order to get rid of the graininess in the print (for example), we'll have to get the 80MB+ of native images AND charge them to reset the document in something proper (usually InDesign – bash Adobe all you want but I can’t stand Quark & Corel is a joke).

    You would think that given the fact that they've embedded the best part of 100MB of images and the resulting Word / PowerPoint file is 20-30MB they would realise that quality is going to suffer, but nooooooooo……...

    We get these files supplied for spot colour lithographic print (when they can only produce RGB colours), full colour lithographic print (and they wonder why the colours change on CMYK conversion), and digital printing on Canon’s flagship digital press’s (well last gen IPC7000VP & IPC6000VP – retrofitted with the 7010 & 6010 upgrades - replacements due next year), expecting miracles. Publisher is the ONLY MS Office product capable of producing high quality print documents, and even then it has its own problems.

    Don’t get me wrong, I actually like PowerPoint, but only when used properly, with clean, simple, uncluttered presentations, that take little time to compile.

    If you need to do a job you should REALLY use the right tools. PowerPoint Is a good tool, not the best, but fairly easy to get to grips with, and once you’ve got the basics (resisting the shitty “multimedia” clipart), it can be a very quick path to effective on-screen layout.

    P.S. IF you insist on using PowerPoint to layout documents intended for print MAKE SURE YOU CHANGE THE SLIDE SIZE TO MATCH YOUR INTENDED OUTPUT SIZE (A4 / A3 etc), BEFORE YOU START WORKING ON IT! ON-SCREEN SHOW 4:3 / 16:9 / 16:10 SLIDES DO NOT SCALE TO STANDARD PAPER SIZES PROPERLY!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    PowerPoint not the problem

    Reading the article, their beef is mostly with "town hall" style meetings that happen regularly in big blue chip companies. Lecturers, teachers, students and people that have never worked for a big corporation can't really appreciate what these are, explaining some comments saying that the issue is with presenters, etc. (although a good presenter can at least brighten them up occasionally).

    These things are often truly wrist slitting soul destroying, PowerPoint or not (I've even seen them done as stand-up meetings, I kid not) and even worse when they get done as "away days" (I.e you get a whole day of them).

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