Why did a number of physicists at the Hadron Collider at the University of Florida ban PowerPoint in favor of whiteboarding?
“The use of the PowerPoint slides was acting as a straitjacket to discussion,” says Andrew Askew, an assistant professor of physics at Florida State University. “We all feel inundated by PowerPoint,” Askew says. “With only a whiteboard, you have your ideas and a pen in your hand.”
This story was originally reported in Fermilab Today and more recently on NPR. By removing PowerPoint, “it was like a big glass barrier was removed between the speaker and the audience,” according to Askew. Presenting their findings using a whiteboard drove more interaction between the presenter and the audience; an audience that too often tunes out when a PowerPoint is turned on.
Physicists aren’t the only ones who have turned away from PowerPoint. Jeff Bezos, CEO and Chairman of Amazon, has famously banned PowerPoints from his meetings. In fact, Bezos once said, “If I could organize my day just in terms of pure enjoyment, I would be with other people around a whiteboard.” Similarly, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner has also moved away from PowerPoint.
Even Nancy Duarte, CEO of famed Duarte, who specializes in creating presentations, blogged about how she had her team conduct a number of highly collaborative meetings without PowerPoint. And what tool did one of her VPs use to create a compelling case? The whiteboard.
Why is the whiteboard so powerful? Perhaps Jeff Weiner said it best in his blog. He said that without the reliance of presenting a PowerPoint, the meeting then focuses on “valuable discourse: Providing shared context, diving deeper on particularly cogent data and insights, and perhaps most importantly, having a meaningful debate.” That is often what happens when discussions move to the whiteboard.
There is a reason that physicists, CEOs and one of the leading storytellers of our time believe that the whiteboard drives more interactive meetings, and better, more productive business decisions and results. It’s because people tune in and turn on. Using a whiteboard is by nature an interactive process. And any time you can get your audience, whether that is a customer or a colleague, more involved in the discussion, that’s a good thing for your relationship, your work and for your combined desired outcome.