Scientists make a massive use of PowerPoint in their presentations, as do most communicators. The use of this software program has been the target of drastic criticism, mostly in the United States and particularly in Edward Tufte's essay "The cognitive style of PowerPoint".

Most observers recognize that PPT has served to produce an enormous amount of poorly designed presentations. However, these critiques rely mostly on personal appreciation of PPT and its use. This study was therefore conducted to obtain quantitative information in this area.

The population of presentations studied was composed of documents bearing the suffix "ppt" on the web. Google reported 1000 of these and I randomly selected 100. A series of 37 variables was selected, classifying the nature, subject matter, purpose, authorship, geographical origin, language, dimensions, typography, make up, type of illustration (etc.) of all presentations.

The main results show that 61 of the documents were used for oral presentations, the rest for display; a short majority comes from educational institutions. Some 58 presentations deal with services, and the most frequent subject is computer science. Authors rely massively on text, whether discursive or, in 86% of cases, bullet lists. Text is designed using mostly default fonts (Arial) in frequently either too small or too large font sizes (5 to 160 points) and very little colour. Graphs and tables only make 5% of total pages, mostly in scientific or technical presentations; tables are used by a larger number of authors and frequent in product presentations. Photographic reproductions of objects or places are surprisingly limited to less than 20% of presentations and 4% of total pages. Schematizations are much more frequent, and almost half of presenters use ornamental elements such as clip art.

Promotional documents rely most on schematized texts, organigrams, schemas and photographs, while educational documents produced by teachers seem to rely more on text. Image analysis could be an interesting technique in attempts at characterizing communicational genres of presentations.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Analysing visual presentations under PowerPoint

Luc Desnoyers   Université du Québec aÌ€ Montréal Montréal QC Canada

Scientists make a massive use of PowerPoint in their presentations, as do most communicators. The use of this software program has been the target of drastic criticism, mostly in the United States and particularly in Edward Tufte's essay "The cognitive style of PowerPoint".

Most observers recognize that PPT has served to produce an enormous amount of poorly designed presentations. However, these critiques rely mostly on personal appreciation of PPT and its use. This study was therefore conducted to obtain quantitative information in this area.

The population of presentations studied was composed of documents bearing the suffix "ppt" on the web. Google reported 1000 of these and I randomly selected 100. A series of 37 variables was selected, classifying the nature, subject matter, purpose, authorship, geographical origin, language, dimensions, typography, make up, type of illustration (etc.) of all presentations.

The main results show that 61 of the documents were used for oral presentations, the rest for display; a short majority comes from educational institutions. Some 58 presentations deal with services, and the most frequent subject is computer science. Authors rely massively on text, whether discursive or, in 86% of cases, bullet lists. Text is designed using mostly default fonts (Arial) in frequently either too small or too large font sizes (5 to 160 points) and very little colour. Graphs and tables only make 5% of total pages, mostly in scientific or technical presentations; tables are used by a larger number of authors and frequent in product presentations. Photographic reproductions of objects or places are surprisingly limited to less than 20% of presentations and 4% of total pages. Schematizations are much more frequent, and almost half of presenters use ornamental elements such as clip art.

Promotional documents rely most on schematized texts, organigrams, schemas and photographs, while educational documents produced by teachers seem to rely more on text. Image analysis could be an interesting technique in attempts at characterizing communicational genres of presentations.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP