I’ve always worked in product development. It’s an intensely social environment where people are constantly telling each other stories to get their point across. Accordingly, I’ve probably sat through at least one PowerPoint presentation for each day I’ve spent in the office.
It’s often painful. So painful, in fact, that next time someone stands up in a meeting and begins reading directly off their PowerPoint prezo, I swear I’m going to every-so-politely inform them that the last person to read to me out loud was my mother and that procedure ceased circa 1974. Trust me, I can read, and if there’s some text around, I’d rather digest it myself than try to listen to you and read it myself at the same time.
Here’s the problem: PowerPoint wasn’t designed as a tool for documenting complex thoughts or piles of information. As a wise man once said, trains of thought need tracks. And those tracks are best constructed of prose, which is what Microsoft Word is for. So when people use PowerPoint as a medium for complex and complete sentences, tables, lists of bullets, etc… they’re not helping their story or their audience get to a good place.
Cliff Atkinson shows on his blog that removing text from PowerPoint improves both information retention and transfer. And I recall Seth Godin advising that we use no more than six or so words on any PowerPoint slide. Use a photo or drawing instead, he says. Removing text from your PowerPoint decks forces you to become an active storyteller, and that’s fine, because that’s what we humans do when we’re around one another.
So. Word = Prose Documentation. PowerPoint = Active Storytelling. If you need both outcomes, use each program to write up two different documents.
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