Death by PowerPoint – Part 2 – The Gettysburg Address

Have you ever thought how a short but brilliant speech like the Gettysburg Address would have looked in PowerPoint?

This point was explored satirically by Peter Norvig, a computer scientist currently serving as Director of Research at Google, Inc.  Why did he do it?  What was his point?

First let’s talk about the Gettysburg Address. You know, “For score and seven years ago…”

Abraham Lincoln’s speech dedicating the cemetery there in the after math of an American civil war battle is one of the most well known speeches in American history.  But did you know:

  • That the speech only lasts about 2 1/2 minutes…
  • And that it Edward Everett was the real orator for the occasion, deliver a 2-hour speech that history has mostly forgotten.

So why did Norvig put it in PowerPoint?  He discusses it on his web site, but put simply he wanted to poke fun at people whose use of graphics and visuals in presentation obscured rather than enhanced the key points.  I highly suggest you read what Norvig says, as the page also has links to commentary from other big shots like Edward Tufte, the supreme “ninja” of information design.

There are many more “black book” short lessons on PowerPoint we’ll explore in additional posts, but this one really hit home for me.  It’s not about the PowerPoint. 

It’s about the power of the Points you are trying to make.

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