Writing for Business and Industry




Note: this week is about creating oral presentations. You will not have to give one.




From Thom Haller presentation

In my industry EVERYTHING is done in Powerpoint - we call it death by Powerpoint. I think there is some truth to Tufte's argument. The biggest difference between the days of the overhead projector and today is ease of use. Powerpoint can be a phenomenal tool when it is used properly. It is a presentation tool, meaning there has to be backside analysis and structure before building a presentation. The Powerpoint reinforces your presentation it is not a stand alone presentation. Overheads were typically a pain to make, expensive, and difficult to modify. If people were going to take the time and money to create overhead slides there was a process behind doing so. Analyze the data, develop your arguments, structure the arguments, make a conclusion, and present the data. Typically there was a technical report that backed the overheads up. With Powerpoint this is not the case. Everybody has access to it and it is extremely easy to make. It is not so much that the program is bad but rather everybody skips the process leading up to the presentation and just starts building their arguments in the brief. This causes people to go through the analysis and thinking simultaneous to making the presentation causing it to be unstructured and overwhelming.


Go back to your textbook recommendation report and create the PowerPoint presentation you will give to the faculty textbook committee. You will have 5-10 minutes to present your analysis.

The number of slides needs to reflect this limitation (15 slides is too many). Also, you must consider what the audience wants to see; I've seen too many in the past that spent 7 slides explaining criteria and then 1 slide giving a summary of the analysis. Is this really how the audience prioritizes the information?

Turn in

Powerpoint file

Supporting document. Write a 2 page single spaced report (supporting document) describing the design decisions you made to support the audience for the presentation. Explain and justify your design of the presentation, citing relevant sources to support your design decisions. Note that you must explain your design choices, not give a description of how you went about doing the project.



Complete the Presentations quiz in Blackboard. The quiz is open book (the browser is not locked down), but you can only take it once. The Presentations quiz closes at 5:00pm November 21st..


Email me your answer. Review these four presentations (all were created for an information architecture conference). Compare and contrast how they approach design slides. The audience for all four of these presentations are the same and they may have even appeared back-to-back on the schedule. Which is more effective, which is least? What can be done to improve them? How well do the more unconventional approaches work and what would you have to consider before using one of them?





Discussion questions

Discussion closes for initial posts (only...you can still comment) on Tuesday morning November 18th


Is Tufte right that PowerPoint is evil? Is the software designed such that it almost ensures a bad presentation? Is it a great example of giving an untrained person a powerful tool is ensuring disaster? So what is the fundamental problem with why PowerPoint is getting a bad rap? People used overheads for many years and they never got the same reputation. How did the move to computer cause such problems?


There are many PPT guidelines with statements like " A slide has one topic with no more than 5 bullet points of 6 words each. It has bullets instead of sentences. Slides should not have more than 40 words." However these are generic structural design and say nothing about communicating your information. How do you know when a slide has the proper amount of content?

weak answer: A slide has the proper amount of content when the content helps the presenter to organize the matter being discussed, but without providing too much information. [Right, but how do you know you have achieved that.]


In what ways do overflow distortion, content cutting, and slide title flattening violate the deck's logical hierarchy? How does an author maintain visual hierarchy in slide presentations? How do deck authors illustrate hierarchical relationships in slide design?

weak answer: Deck authors show hierarchical relationships by using clear, distinctive titles and subtitles or categories and subcategories. Content cutting, overflow distortion, and slide title flattening violate this hierarchical logic in many ways: (...define each of these terms...)

Thoughts to ponder


Here's a presentation that has good use of descriptive titles and supporting text on the slides.



The Gettysburg address rewritten as a PowerPoint presentation.





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