In defense of PowerPoint

An article in Politico today notes that Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice president, recently used PowerPoint in a campaign appearance. The story’s reporter, Roger Simon, takes that opportunity to lash out at Microsoft’s software:

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair.

To be sure, PowerPoint can be a terrible tool in the hands of a bad presenter. A common problem is a presenter who reads each bullet point directly from the slide. No one likes to sit in a classroom or a conference room and endure that.

But PowerPoint can also be effective when used well. It’s among the tools I use in my courses. My goal with PowerPoint is for each slide to illustrate one idea or example. I also want each slide to be the starting point for discussion in class.

Bashing PowerPoint is a popular sport. So is bashing Twitter. People who dislike these ways of communicating information should look to the person using them, not the formats themselves.

UPDATE: Simon’s article is apparently a misguided attempt at satire. I didn’t get it. Regardless, my stance on PowerPoint is serious and unchanged.