Liz Wager’s 15th century wisdom on PowerPoint

Liz WagerI use PowerPoint when I’m giving a presentation, and still believe that it’s a helpful tool if used carefully. I agree with other critics such as Trisha Greenhalgh, that slides packed with verbiage are ghastly and sleep-inducing but strong images can help make your message stick.

I was therefore intrigued to come across these words of wisdom from a 15th century monk, Michele de Carcano:

“Images of the Virgin and saints were introduced for three reasons. First, on account of the ignorance of the simple people, so that those who are not able to read the scriptures can yet learn by seeing the sacraments of our salvation and faith in pictures … Second, images were introduced on account of our emotional sluggishness; so that men who are not aroused to devotion when they hear the histories of the saints may at least be moved when they see them … in pictures. Third, they were introduced on account of our unreliable memories ..because many people cannot retain in their memories what they hear, but do remember if they see images.”

I’ve got a feeling that, if PowerPoint had been available in 1492, Father de Carcano would have given great presentations. It’s only a shame it’s taken us over 500 years to rediscover his wisdom.

Liz Wager is a freelance writer, trainer and publications consultant who works for a number of pharmaceutical companies, communication agencies, publishers and academic institutions. She is also the Secretary of COPE (the Committee On Publication Ethics) and a member of the BMJ’s Ethics Committee.