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A brief, hopeful rant about Powerpoint

J. Harry Caufield

The "tools of the trade" are little more than iconography for most trades. In science, no matter the field, one of those tools is usually Powerpoint. It doesn't look as good on a flag as a hammer or sickle or even a cutlass* but it's still the reliable sidearm of any scientist with conclusions to present and an audience to hear about them. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its popularity, Powerpoint is widely abused. It's less of a tool and more of a drug. Many scientists just can't get through a presentation without loading up a stack of slides and letting 'em fly.

Lets break the cycle, folks. Some physicists are abandoning the slides in favor of whiteboards and direct conversation. Even better, we can avoid the bullet-point habit entirely and adapt to specific audiences. Presentations should be about expanding upon ideas, not glossing them over! I can't claim to be a presenting expert and certainly haven't had a long career. Even so, I can hope for numerous chances to present my research outside the bounds of Microsoft's glowing rectangles.

*I once saw a version of the University of Virginia logo specially prepared for their department of Biology. The sabres had been replaced by micropipettes, the actual tools of the molecular biology trade.