These days I'm wondering about the use of Microsoft PowerPoint in churches and classrooms.
Like a lot of you, after I first discovered PowerPoint, I was very excited about its potential for preaching and teaching. This had the capacity, I thought, to really engage a group of people, to visually reinforce a message and clarify its ideas. It didn't take me long to wake up. I had a lot to learn.
I was a later-comer to the use of this technology. So most of what I learned early on came by way of good and bad examples that I saw.
One of the first things I noticed was that some preachers were copying and pasting their sermon notes and outlines onto a series of slides. Often, a slide was filled with a lot of text in a small font. Sometimes, with his head turned away from the group, the speaker would read from the slides word for word. If you've seen this sort of combination, you know that the effect can be the opposite of the intention.
Something else I noticed was that pictures and font styles and the use of animation were not always appropriate. Sometimes it seemed like there was no appreciation for the fact that fonts have the power to set a tone and create a mood. The words and the fonts didn't match. One time, I was completely turned off when the word "death" came spinning onto the screen. The animation suggested "Happy Birthday!" not "death."
I got a taste of the good use of PowerPoint when I visited the Otter Creek Church of Christ in the Nashville area. The preacher, Tim Woodroof, used nice artwork and just a bit of text (as I remember). The projections always fit, and never overwhelmed the spoken word, which was very well prepared. Something else I noticed was that attention had been given to coordination between the sermon and slides.
When I first started using PowerPoint myself, even though I was armed with my own list of dos and don'ts, there was still a lot I didn't know. For example, a friend showed me that, when using such a large screen, I should use a white font on a dark background, as opposed to using the default black font on white background.
Over the last several years, my use of PowerPoint has improved. I've read a few articles on the subject, and every one of them taught me something practical that I needed to know or remember. You can read one such article here.
I'm interested in hearing about your experiences as presenters and listeners. A few questions:
1. What, in your opinion, are the most important things for presenters to know and do when using PowerPoint?
2. If you preach or teach, do you use it all of the time? Some of the time? Never? Why?
3. In your experience, who uses PowerPoint especially well? What factors contribute to the quality?