Powerpoint is ubiquitous today. In fact, I've heard some engineers express their concern that it actually serves as the sole documentation on some of their projects. Can you imagine? No analysis, no calculations or underlying assumptions included, just the "top-level" overview! I only hope it's not used as documentation for any products that I use that could fail catastrophically and hurt me in the process. (For Edward Tufte's now famous rant on PowerPoint in Wired Magazine, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/4386-538.)
On the flip side, I recently worked with an engineer in California who participated in a Design News webcast. When I asked him to submit his presentation in PowerPoint, he gleefully pointed out that his company is a "PowerPoint-free" zone! Granted it's a small company, but I really like their entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe we'll do an article on how they survive without it (though granted he managed to scrounge up a version of it to do his presentation for our webcast).
Since not using PowerPoint is not an option for most of us, the next best thing is to have some sort of gimmick to make your presentation stand out. I mean special effects are so last year.
The latest cool tool among the geek set is a green laser pointer—on sale at www.thinkgeek.com for $99.99. I know, because it's the only thing my husband wanted for Christmas. When the package arrived at his office at MIT, his graduate students insisted he open up the box on the spot for a quick demonstration.
When he arrived home that night, I got a demo, too. Wielding it like a light saber, he pointed it directly into the window of the courthouse across the street from us, sending an eerie green beam through the night sky. Next, he aimed it at the windows of the jail kitty-corner from us. As the Jedi Master targeted the neighbor's house abutting our backyard, I realized that the main appeal of this thing is that it's a toy thinly masquerading as a business tool.
That's probably why it's now on back order at www.thinkgeek.com, which offers this pithy writeup:
"This pointer is significantly brighter (about 50 times) than a red laser pointer and because of its unusual color it is much more noticeable. I mean come on, a 532-nm green laser wavelength is obviously superior to a laughable 650-nm red laser wavelength."
Based on the hours of fun I've had playing with it, I'd have to say it is quite the superior toy. And it will definitely help make those PowerPoint presentations a little less painful!