PowerPoint technical details and web resources Tufte wouldn't disdain?

We use PowerPoint in my company and I agree with many experts (eg Edward Tufte) that PP helps deaden thinking and discourage good content. I have the chance to help influence some of our usage standards and am seeking resources.

One kind of resource I’d like is technical discussion of what’s going on inside PowerPoint. For example, how do you prepare and import graphics so that PP does not have to resample the pixels, worsening its already poor resolution? And how does this change depending on the PC and projection system you’ll encounter once your’re up at the podium? Why do templates sometimes corrupt font and symbol choices, remap color palettes, and so forth, and how do you predict and avoid such disasters? How do you get items in a template, such as legal disclaimers at the bottom of each slide, to go in front of the slide content (PP’s Bring to Front doesn’t do it)? I typically use PowerPoint to show graphics on a “blank” slide layout, without any special effects - that is, I use a minimum of PowerPoint features. But even for this it often fails.

The other kind of resource is the sort of stylistic criticism Tufte has already popularized. I know of his resources, but what else is there in that vein?

Thanks, SDMB!

It’s not the technical issues that cause problems in PowerPoint; it’s how the speaker uses it. There are very few guides about how to make an effective presentation with it. PowerPoint instruction is designed on how to add bells and whistles, with absolutely no discussion about when these are appropriate.
I have several rules to make good PowerPoint presentations:

The 6 x 6 rule – no more than six bullets per slide, with no more than six words each. You do occasionally have to break this, but it’s a very solid guideline. If you need more than six bullets, break the slide in two.

Don’t read from the slide – PowerPoints are notes for the presentation you’re making, not the presentation. The presentation is much more effective if you summarize what you’re saying and expand on it verbally. Sometimes I even put things on the slide that I deliberately refrain from talking about. People are reading the slides – usually several times – so they will notice.

Less is More – the more fancy graphics you use, the less effective the presentation. Don’t put a graphic on every slide. Use only one special effect per slide, and don’t use the same ones (i.e., the same transition) for every slide. Stay away from clip art if you can, if not, stay away from the generic clip art (photos work better).

Ultimately, any guidelines should not be guidelines for PowerPoint. They should be guidelines for doing a presentation, PowerPoint or not.

Tufte’s criticisms of the PowerPoint methodology isn’t in the details of the application itself. Tufte, like Feynman, had an issue with the vapid, stupid, plodding, superficial, linear thinking that is enabled by PP. Moreover, the availability of the indigenous PP templates enable a minimum of thinking about the organisation of content, and enables the presentation of content without thinking.

A nice quote by Feynman goes like this:

Tufte’s problem isn’t really with PP, it is with the kind of thinking enabled by PP.

Gettysburg Address PP

Having said that, PP can be used when the concepts are actually linear in nature. I use PP in my teaching, in rudimentary aids:




With a bit of work, one can create non-linear powerpoint presentations by cross-linking multiple presentations: in effect, using PP to render a simple web-page. And the PP files are more portable than a web page, but much less efficient in terms of file size.