There's an old gag that if your country is about to go to war with another country, send copies of PowerPoint to all of their generals . They will be so distracted by the need to create presentations that they will forget about their war plans. A recent article entitled "Death to PowerPoint" was really about how to deliver effective presentations rather than a rant about PowerPoint per se (see: Death to PowerPoint!). Here's an excerpt from it:
No matter what your line of work, it’s only getting harder to avoid death by PowerPoint. Since Microsoft...launched the slide show program 22 years ago, it’s been installed on no fewer than 1 billion computers; an estimated 350 PowerPoint presentations are given each second across the globe; the software’s users continue to prove that no field of human endeavor can defy its facility for reducing complexity and nuance to bullet points and big ideas to tacky clip art....As with anything so ubiquitous and relied upon, PowerPoint has bred its share of contempt....Microsoft’s other ubiquitous products, such as Word and Excel, don’t draw the same widescale ire. As PowerPoint’s sole function—unlike word processing and arithmetic—is grounded in visual arts, its slides do more harm than good. They bore audiences with amateurish, antiquated animation and typefaces and distract speakers from focusing on the underlying structure of their creators’ speeches. It’s a wonder that today’s groundswell of PowerPoint refuseniks has taken so long to emerge.“The best speakers at any corporate level today grip an audience by telling a story and showing some slides to support that,” says [an expert in the field]. The boldest among them do away with slides entirely....[He] found that 36 percent of the preparation time for the average proposal was consumed by design and animation work by people without formal graphics training. “People rely on the graphics and stilted effects [that come with] these programs because they think they plump out an otherwise poorly told story,”....In another example, an executive came to [an expert on presentations] looking for a killer PowerPoint, but instead she trained him for days to tell his story using only a whiteboard. Many of the top presentation gurus advocate judiciously limiting the role of PowerPoint.
There is no question in my mind that presenting slides with just hints about the material to be presented is optimal. With this approach, the slides serve as memory jogs to the lecturer who can then present the material in a more spontaneous fashion rather than a rote reiteration of the phrases on the slide. The problem here is that such slides have little value for those who review them after the presentation unless the lecture is video taped as in the case of the the TED talks. In other words, the slides do not stand on their own after the lecture. Even if a video of a lecture are available, many people who might profit from watching it don't have the time or patience to do so.
The solution that I have arrived at is to develop the slides so that the points are understandable to a reader who has not attended the lecture but to not be rigidly bound by them when I deliver it. I often just look at the caption to the slide and use this as a visual cue to myself to talk about this particular idea. I only use images sparingly and never use slide animations. They only distract the audience from the topic at hand.