For nearly six years I was a consultant at McKinsey and for another six I held corporate staff roles and marketing leadership roles. In these twelve years, I did a lot of presenting. By the end of those 12 years, I felt like I knew about functionality in PowerPoint that the guys in Redmond didn't know about. But by the end of those 12 years, I had nearly abandoned Powerpoint as a medium and I avoid it like the plague today.
The main reason is that I don't like to be a slave to my slides. So many presenters become trapped by their slides, redefining the presentation as getting through the slides in a given amount of time rather than getting their message across. Today, I like to present to people, looking them in the eye, without any other visual effects to take their attention away from me or my message. I will use a flip chart or a computer projector from time to time - there is always a need to punctuate your points with data and charts and pictures, but I don't leave them up there after they have had their impact. The projector goes off and focus is back on me and my message.
At one company we made presentations using 2 or even 3 projectors
simultaneously, projecting multiple slides all at one time. I remember
several key strategy presentations I gave using a hundred or more
slides. Today, I know I could give those presentations better with
just 5 slides showing the key market research and cost data that drove
the decision, and then explaining the logic of our plan without any distractions behind me.
There is nothing I hate more than bulleted text slide after bulleted text slide. There are only two possibilities from these slides: Either they are easy to read, but then their message is so generic as to be meaningless; or they contain real content, making them hard to read in a presentation. I prefer the latter, but save them for a leave behind that people can flip through after I am done.
Anyway, so much for my patented 20 minute semi-off-topic introduction to the real point of this post. Via gongol.com comes this interesting analysis of how the use of PowerPoint might be affecting the quality of scientific presentations, and specifically looks at how PowerPoint may have impeded quality understanding of the risks that led to the Columbia accident.
Postscript: I must give credit where credit is due. McKinsey takes the art of presentation very seriously, and did more for me than anyone in making me a good presenter of complex information, either in verbal or written form. Their pyramid principal for writing was more useful to me than anything I learned in six years at Princeton and Harvard about the subject of communication.