PowerPoint has taken a hammering in the press in the last few months. The New York Times piece We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint detailed the US Military’s blame game. “PowerPoint makes us stupid,” declared General James N. Mattis. And across the pond, the London Evening Standard article Why PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid gave Yale University information presentation guru Edward Tufte a forum for his emphatic take-no-prisoners declaration, “Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.”
Sound bites are good copy, and Tufte’s clever tweak of Lord Acton’s famous power dictum is a guaranteed way to get press coverage. But the subset of Lord Acton’s statement – “great men are almost always bad men” – doesn’t translate. If PowerPoint is a great tool – and it is – it’s only a “bad” tool because users fail on two to three fronts. They have limited knowledge of its capabilities, and they have poor ideas or poor presentation skills (or both).