The relatively new and controversial medium of PowerPoint presentations has generated much casual commentary but little careful analysis or empirical research. This rhetorical study attempts to advance our understanding of the medium and provides practical guidance regarding deck design, rehearsal, and performance. The study considers the reasons for the controversy surrounding PowerPoint, offers a taxonomy of the kinds of content that appear in decks, and looks closely at how presenters interact with individual slides, in particular the way in which they “synch ” to each bullet point and then “launch ” an oral gloss of that point. In addition, the study provides criteria for writing bullet points and suggests reasons why presenters include excess text on their slides. Oral presentations supported by sets of slides (or “decks”) created with PowerPoint and similar products are an important communication medium, ubiquitous in business, government, and higher education (Parker 2001). This rhetorical study attempts to advance our understanding of the medium of PowerPoint presentations and offers practical guidance regarding deck design, rehearsal, and performance. A key premise underlying my approach to PowerPoint is that human beings understand and look for logical relationships when processing information and make significant use of text signals when doing so (Matlin 2004, Lorch and Lorch 1995). What follows from this is that slide titles, bullet points, and other components of a deck should comprise a logical superstructure of ideas. Audiences can certainly cope with an illogical presentation, but violations of hierarchical subordination constitute a kind of “noise ” and—depending on the genre and difficulty of the subject matter—may seriously impair understanding. Furthermore a presenter who is working from a poorly constructed hierarchy is apt to encounter problems creating the deck and delivering the presentation
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