Have you seen the new soda fountains? The ones with the touchscreen that let you mix all kinds of syrups with something like a gazillion possible flavor combinations?
I remember when I first saw those fountains thinking they were really cool. Unlimited options! But after trying them out a few times, I quickly realized something unfortunate. With great freedom comes great potential for creating something pretty terrible. Cherry Coke is awesome. Strawberry Sprite? Not a fan.
PowerPoint (or any piece of software for that matter) gives you lots of control over every aspect of your file. This is great. It allows for some incredible things. But it also means you can do a lot of things that you probably don’t really want to do. Things that won’t taste good to your audience. Strawberry Sprite slides.
Fortunately, when you’re using the new soda machines, you can always revert back to the tried and tested flavors that we know work. Classic Coke. Barq’s. Mr. Pibb. (At least some people think Mr. Pibb tastes good.)
The PowerPoint equivalent of tried and tested ready-made soda flavors is the presentation template. PowerPoint comes pre-loaded with lots of these. The trouble is that many of these templates produce Strawberry Sprite slides.
We assume that these templates were created by people who knew how to create great slides. But the truth is the modern slide full of bullets on one side and a small image on the other were created by the original developers of PowerPoint back in the 1980s, who weren’t trained in creating effective presentation visuals.
So, is PowerPoint a poor tool because it lets you do things you probably shouldn’t do? Not any more than the new soda fountains are poor for giving you the ability to create something you won’t like.
It’s good to have the flexibility to do whatever we want. But we need to make sure that we’re aware of what works and what doesn’t so we can avoid creating slide that taste like Strawberry Sprite.