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Beyond PowerPoint™: Tools for Rapid and Accurate Idea Transfer

Miller1, C.A. (Panel Chair),  Ott1, T.(Panel Co-Chair), Frost2, D., Goan3, T., Potter4, S., Ramming5, C., and Thomsen1, D.

Panel Presentation at The Human Factors & Ergonomics Society 52nd Annual Meeting, New York, NY (September 2008)

Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation software turned 30 years old last year and is, arguably, the dominant mechanism for idea transfer in the world of work today—a position that it has held for, perhaps, the last 20 years. PowerPoint presentations are used for everything from grade school project reports to sermons to Space Shuttle launch decisions to military mission briefings. Built on the even older technology of overhead view foils and slide shows, PowerPoint clearly provides benefits over that technology in the ease with which it enables the creation of presentations— and it would be hard to argue that the results are less colorful and entertaining thanks to the tool. But is this the best we can do? Tufte (2007) has recently provided an extensive indictment of the failings of PowerPoint, and of the presentations that it encourages us to create. And while many of us would dispute elements of Tufte’s crtiques, we all see ways to improve on PowerPoint or its usage. Most members of this panel have all recently been awarded small research grants by DARPA to propose alternate approaches to enabling “rapid and accurate idea transfer” in at least some of the domains in which PowerPoint is currently dominant. In this panel, they will discuss their approaches and illustrate them—traditional PowerPoint presentations will not be permitted. A secondary theme will be evaluation methods and metrics for idea transfer.

1 Smart Information Flow Technologies
Harmonia, Inc.
Stottler Henke Associates Inc.
Charles River Analytics
DARPA/STO (emeritus)

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