More on “PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid”

One of our viewers directed us to a video from TED. The speaker there seemed to relish the idea that the spaghetti diagram was such a mess. He said it gave him a chance to sort through it all and see the clarity!

Well – now that’s like someone saying: “Gee…I am really happy that I have terminal cancer since that will give some scientist a chance to look for the cure.” Does it make sense to you?

There is a way to salvage this spaghetti mess. You can use the diagram as a photo backdrop (faded but still visible) throughout the presentation. Your presentation will consist of ONE idea per slide with the spaghetti backdrop as a reminder of the complexity of the topic to audience. The ONE idea must be in the form of a short sentence – not bullet point.

Use as many slides as the complex situation warrants. Remember – you no longer have to pay someone to make up your slides. They are free!!!

5 responses to “More on “PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid”

  1. Here we have an interesting dilemma… do we present the complexity of the analysis we perform or do we communicate the simplicity of the result of our our analysis.
    The TED presentation is by an expert who lives in a web of complexity… it is his job, after all. He does a good job of telling me how he can analyse the military spaghetti diagram in 15 seconds, neglecting to tell us it has taken 10 years of education, training and research for him to be able to do that. It is not beyond his wit to ask “How can I best communicate what this diagram tells me?”
    What is problem? How do we increase popular support for the government?
    Analysis of the connected factors shows that:
    There are Military factors outside our control.
    There are Non actionable factors such as terrain.
    But there are non-violent factors we can act on:
    engagement with ethnic rivalries and religious beliefs, and
    Fair transparent economic development. So let us discuss these….blah blah
    …and by the way in case you think we have been too simplistic here is the network diagram we created for our analysis.
    This I think is a constructive way of getting audience engagement; the TED approach seems to be … ‘be afraid… be very afraid… but don’t worry here’s an expert! What? you are too terrified to pay attention….. you are a compex individual!’
    Non-violent factors
    He does a good job of telling us that there are 3 categories

  2. Jim…so if it takes a person with 10 years of experience in training and education in complex diagrams to decipher the spaghetti diagram, the diagram is no good as a communication tool. Even a 4-star general on the ground there couldn’t figure it out. Why make it so complicated to start with – that’s my whole point.


    • I have seen it and I am not convinced that it is an improvement over the conventional dreary PowerPoint slide. It adds a lot of razzle dazzle (zooming in and zooming out) to it and that’s exactly what you do not want in a serious presentation. You do not want the audience to be distracted by the bells and whistles. You want them to focus on you – the speaker and the content.

    • If I wanted to show special effects in a presentation, I show them a movie with special effects. Not a bunch of slides zooming in and out.

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