This is why PowerPoint is worse than useless, according to Harvard researchers.

That’s really unfair for college professors to hypothesize, and to later prove it with a study. How dare you? That awkward moment throughout college, and had it not been for PowerPoint, do they think we would’ve enjoyed lectures? We didn’t. PowerPoint ease their stress (and ours just a little bit, though). According to Harvard researchers, online users rated PowerPoint in their recent study as no better than verbal presentation with no visual aids. That’s so rude!



The PowerPoint Championship

FYI, there’s such a thing as a World PowerPoint Championship — a competition that could host as much as 850,000 participants from over 100 countries. There’s even a school, city, state, and national levels of the competition in the United States. Like seriously! And the winner could win about $10,000 in cash prize, a laptop, and a trophy. Pretty cool, huh? The only winner from the United States to have ever won such prizes is Seth Maddox from a small Alabama town with a population of 900 inhabitants, in Geraldine. Congratulations, Seth!

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Here’s the catch: you might assume that such a competition would assess someone’s ability to make the most effective PowerPoint presentation. You might even envision a panel of judges, a set of criteria like assignments, readability, efficiency, and how to deliver a compelling presentation like that of a debate, right? Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Well…, instead of testing for effectiveness, the competition tests who can replicate a paper presentation the fastest. In short, you just have to copy some other presentation in the fastest time possible.

Of course, you’ll agree that’s a metric that can easily be measured. Microsoft even thinks its not meaningful to measure the effectiveness of a PowerPoint presentation. And let’s admit it, PowerPoint sucks. Don’t you get bored when the first slide shows up, and its like there’s a hundred more awaiting? According to successful  tech entrepreneurs (like Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Cuban), they often site the use of PowerPoint like it’s a plague — at least two-peer reviewed studies confirmed this, anecdotally.



Pointing Out The Powerful Problem

In a 2007 study conducted by psychologist John Sweller (who also invented the Cognitive Load Theory) of the University of New South Wales, he found that showing audiences the same words that are being spoken reduces their attention and comprehension. Simply put it, putting up bullet points in front of people just to later speak it out to them will not only make you sound boring, they will easily forget it. Truth is, people can’t read and listen to you at the same time. Can you? PowerPoint is apparently a misbegotten concept, nonetheless.

According to a recent Harvard study that appeared in Forbes“PowerPoint was rated (by online audiences) as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids.” Let that marinate for a second…, now, come to think of it. Won’t you be able to deliver your presentation without any slides? So was the time you spent building your deck basically wasted? Not at all. PowerPoint might even make your team members less likely to focus on your deliver rather than the slides.

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As the woefully under appreciated book ‘How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid’ explicitly explains:

“PowerPoint’s celebrated ease and efficiency actually mask a profoundly disturbing but little-understood transformation in human communication. The slides, bulleted lists, and flashy graphics we all now take for granted [have] promoted a new, slippery ‘grammar,’ where faulty causality, sloppy logic, decontextualized data, and seductive showmanship have replaced the traditional tools of persuasion and argument [resulting in] the corruption of language [and] the dumbing-down of society.”

Now that’s too harsh to say of a productivity app that’s meant to ease down your daunting task of reading an entire book into flashy-pop-up slides. Isn’t it?



Does PowerPoint Really Suck?

According to a reader’s suggestion, he deems the results of the study, which was conducted by the Harvard University Department of Psychology, invalid, because it was sponsored with funding from a PowerPoint competitor. The original peer-reviewed paper which was published in the Journal for the Public Library of Science One (PLOS One), explained that the competitor had no role in the study, and neither did the competitor determine the construction nor the results. The study even threw some shade at the competitor, anyway. In summary, the study thinks that PowerPoint presentations are a cognitive load to audience.

Image: Shutterstock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Nowadays, think of it, can you imagine any business meeting without a PowerPoint presentation? Sort of like Africa without Madagascar. According to estimates, there’s a mind-blogging 30 million PowerPoints made every single day — an estimate that was made some 23 years ago. So can’t you communicate better and ease the attention of your audience without a PowerPoint presentation? Sure, you can. You can write a summary and hand them out as an aide d’memoire at the end of your presentation. Or you still prefer PowerPoint?

PowerPoint presentation is now a morphine. People feel its pretty easy to communicate with something assisting them in the process. It has simply made people lazy when communicating, knowing that if they don’t say what they have in mind, there it is. And on the part of the audience, too, they simply focus on what’s being displayed instead of paying attention to what’s being explained. Stop missing the forest for the trees.

Do you think of ‘PowerPoint’ as a worse than useless productivity tool?


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Dec 09, 2021.

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