Abuse of Presentation Slides in Classrooms: Ban Powerpoint Presentations

Problems with Powerpoint Presentations in Classroom

A couple of weeks ago I came to deliver a presentation in a seminar after four speakers who were delivering a technical talk to the business owners using powerpoint and speaking in English, which is the second or third language of the speakers and the audience. I could see the disconnect of the speakers with the audience. I could see the boredom. It was getting late after lunch and people were dozing. I came, junked the presentation that I had prepared, and made a presentation using our local language and talked with my heart. Immediately I got the attention and the audience woke up. Several from the audience later came and congratulated me for waking up the participants and making the session lively.

 For  over 10 years now, I have realized the futility of using the presentations. I have discarded the use of the powerpoint presentations, except very technical talks to very captive audience where there is enough time to intersperse talk with slides, in workshop type formats.

I had started with power point presentations much before they became a norm. It was way back in the mid of 1996-97 that I started with multi-media presentations using a laptop. Those were the time when powerpoint presentations and multimedia was a novelty. Somewhere along the line they became a ritual. They lost their power and became a drag on the presentation.Following are my reasons for urging people to ban the use of powerpoints:

Lights are on the Powerpoint Screen and
the performer is hidden in the dark

Presentation is a Misnomer. The suffix used for MS Powerpoint is “Presentation”, which has now become synonymous with Powerpoint. Powerpoint is NOT the presentation. The speaker’s interaction with the audience is “PRESENTATION”. Powerpoint is at most an aid to presentation that the speaker is delivering. 

Evils that we see everywhere. More so in Academia

Somehow, the powerpoint slides now occupy the center of the hall. The speaker stands in a dark corner barely visible. The poor presenter has become a secondary aid to the presentation. His voice barely audible, his actions non-existent, trying his best to come up to the level of the presentation.

Instead of speaking from the heart, the speaker is reading from the slides. Instead of delivering the arguments naturally and fluently flowing from one sentence to another, the arguments are haltingly delivered losing the punch and the convincing power. Instead of preparing a story line that will engage the audience during the talk, the presenter spends his time tweaking his presentation that no one is going to even bother to read, if at all.

The presenters no longer have the command of the ideas that they are delivering. Their talk is now imprisoned and chained in the confines and the flow of the presentation slides. It can no longer take interesting and unexpected turns to engage with the audience, to pique their interest, to make them laugh, to make them cry, to make them feel the import of what is being said. 

A speaker should only focus on the main 5-7 points that he is going to make during a presentation and keep the audience engaged through a fluent connection between them. In Psychology course long ago, I read that a person can not hold more than 5-7 points in his head at the same time. A power point presentation should therefore preferably has no more than 7 slides. Each slide containing a picture that should stimulate the interest. Rest is what the speaker should say. Preferably the power point should not contain any sentences. At most key words. One or two per line. Pictures that support what the speaker is saying.

Presenter is talking to screen not the students!

The most important thing in a presentation is the connection with the audience. The speaker’s attention is no longer on the audience. He is no longer delivering a performance. He is simply trying to speak what is written on the slides. What is written on slides is visible to the audience. They can read it much quicker than what the speaker speaks of. If the attention of the audience is on the slides, they read it and then go back to their mobiles or dozing. Therefore slides should not contain any thing that the speaker is going to speak about.

The connection with the audience is lost. Ability of the speaker to customize the presentation according to the level of engagement and interest and the body language of the audience is gone. It is as if the actors on a stage are reading from the script and not performing the role.

I have also noticed a very interesting phenomenon. Many of the students were not buying books. They were simply using the teacher transparencies. The transparencies and their contents formed the perimeters of what the student would study in a course and also what they would expect the teachers to examine them. The use (actually abuse) of transparencies by teachers merits a separate post that will highlight on one hand the dependency of the teachers on the slides and their inability to develop their teaching skills and enhance their knowledge, and on the other hand would impact the students in constraining the scope of their study to the few sentences written on the presentation slides.

The problems with slides are so many that one should just junk them or not use more than a few. A fifteen minutes peresentation should not have more than 3 slides. A 30 minutes presentation should not have more than ten slides including the title and the overview and the summary.


Powerpoint Presentations should be Banned in Universities

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  1. People who really want to bring some change in the learning process do not get ample opportunities, the criteria is set by some who benefits the few which just reminds me the romans before Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and the reign of SUlla. Unless someone will not intervene and will not encourage the trend setters the learning process will keep on producing the parrots and robots which may benefit the organizations partially but ultimately will not take them to the destination. PPTs trend was welcomed vehemently without considering the cons and now I have seen people have become that much dependent on it that it will be difficult for them to teach without it.

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  3. The basic purpose of a PowerPoint presentation shouldn't be more than pointing important points to remember during presentation or provide some visual aids in form of images etc.

    I agree and have experienced that students are using slides as alternative of the books – and the reason is: Teachers are trying to stick to only topics/item mentioned in slides in their assessment. Considering this premise, I second the idea that presentation shouldn't use BUT there are genuine requirements when there is a need of slides.

    Personally, I also have experienced the teachers who don't use slides to spend time in useless stuff such as writing definitions etc in order to avoid actual teaching! sad, but true!

    Teaching is a novel cause, but when society itself have changed the definition of criteria for success from 'novelty' to 'money;: then, along with other professions, teaching profession is also affected and become just another way to earn (not good) money.

  4. I think more important than the delivery of facts is establishing a connection with the audience and conveying that which is internalized by the audience. They must take away the essential points that you were trying to make.

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