Discovering the power of PowerPoint: Rethinking the design of presentation slides from a skillful user's perspective

Michael Alley, Kathryn A. Neeley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Slides projected as overheads or by computers have become a conventional and dominant feature of engineering presentations in academia, business, and professional societies. The traditional format for presentation slides - a phrase headline supported by a bullet list - has recently come under harsh criticism. In this paper, we propose an alternative to the traditional design that can communicate engineering content more effectively. The alternative design relies on a succinct sentence headline supported by visual evidence. Its chief strength is that it aids the audience 's understanding of the engineering principles and arguments being presented, as opposed to the traditional phrase headline/bullet list design, which tends to function more as notes for the speaker. Although the alternative design offers several clear advantages in an engineering presentation many engineering students and faculty strongly resist veering from the traditional format defaults of PowerPoint. This paper outlines the key features and advantages of the alternative design and explores the ways in which resistance to the alternative design can be seen as a measure of how embedded a particular way of using PowerPoint has become in engineering professional practice. Drawing upon student and faculty resistance to the design, this paper uses PowerPoint as a case study in the ways skillful users adapt tools such as PowerPoint to better accomplish their own goals rather than simply accepting the default approaches encouraged by the tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12325-12340
Number of pages16
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2005
Event2005 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: The Changing Landscape of Engineering and Technology Education in a Global World - Portland, OR, United States
Duration: Jun 12 2005Jun 15 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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