Easier to read than a book or web page?

Maybe I’m a little young but when I heard the name Tom Peters, my mind was drawn to Tom Petters, Minnesota’s own Bernie Madoff. You may know that actually Peters—with one “t”—is author of one of the biggest selling and most widely read business books ever, In Search of Excellence, along with more than 15 other books.

Anyhow, a few weeks back a colleague shared a Tweet with me that “@tom_peters has collected 30 years of wisdom in 23 parts and 3500 slides. #wow.” Wow indeed. I was intrigued. The mother of all presentations, as he puts it, MOAP. (As of now, he has released three of the 23 parts.) Says Peters on his blog:

“It”/MOAP/Mother Of All Presentations/excellencenow.com took three years to write.
And 45 years of preparation.

MOAP is in effect—23 parts and 4,096 slides— “all I know.”

And all yours, no strings attached, to be used as you wish and released by us at the rate of one part every two weeks until more or less the end of 2012.

But why slides? “The answer in short: I do slides,” says Peters. Well, I hate to go against a pillar of business writing but 4,096 slides seems like one of the worst ways to compile 45 years of work. Aren’t Peters 15 books (with somewhere near 6,000 pages combined) compilation enough?

I always struggle with PowerPoint. I think it can be great for enhancing a presentation, but sometimes the animations and templates can begin to overshadow the content itself. Looking at the first few “decks” that have been released, I find the content hard to follow and often headache inducing. There are at least five different fonts, slide colors ranging from gray to bright yellow to blue and so much text in so many sizes it is difficult to connect one point to the next. Here’s the first deck:

[custom_field field="tompeters-slide" limit="0" between=", " /]

This much text on a PowerPoint Slide is plain inefficient. Edward Tufte, whom I’ve written about before, has researched and written extensively on effective “display of information.” In his essay “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint,” Tufte criticizes the way  PowerPoint is typically used.

People read 300 to 1,000 printed words a minute…Often the visual channel is an intensely high-resolution channel.

Yet, in a strange reversal, nearly all PowerPoint slides that accompany talks have much lower rates of information transmission…

Peters has added a lot of annotation to accompany his slides. “We estimate 100,000++ words of annotation accompany the standard slides,” he says. But it is terribly difficult to consume one multicolored slide at a time.

Tufte’s suggestion: “replace PowerPoint slides with paper handouts showing words, numbers, data, graphics, images together. High-resolution handouts allow viewers to contextualize, compare, narrate and recast evidence.”

I agree. Why not just put Peters’ compendium in a free e-book? (or 23 free e-books?) There’s a reason books are effective – they can contain a lot of information in an easily digestible format (whether they’re in print or electronic). I can tell you I won’t be reading through Tom Peters’ four thousand slides over 2012, but I may go ahead and read one of his books.

One Response

  1. James

    Your information is very interesting, and I think that 300 to 1000 words in a minute is relative. For example, if the text is scientific, the value could be about 200 or less.
    James