Behold – the soul-sucking process flow for creating a typical PowerPoint presentation (click to see the full details)
I have not yet begun to rant about how much I loathe PowerPoint. PowerPoint is evil. Plain and simple. It has transformed presentations in the realm of the Corporate Overlords into a quagmire of bullet points, overly complicated graphics, and nose-bleed inducing meetings. Never before has software dumbed-down presentations to the point where you are no longer attempting to present a point or arrive at a decision – you are putting on a show (and often a dismally dull one at that.)
I don’t blame PowerPoint alone. The Corporate Overlords had allowed the presentation format and style of PowerPoint to essentially drive how presentations are created.
We (the soulless masses whose life and will have been sucked from our beings) used to actually put on presentations that were barely augmented. I remember going in with transparencies (no more than three) to get decisions made. My “animations” consisted of me physically changing transparencies. I had to have my data down-pat. I used to practice what I was going to say and what I wanted from the stakeholders – where now I practice reading what I was forced to put in a slide deck. Presentations were shorter, more informative, and to the point. We were living in the good old days and didn’t even know it. Then came Harvard Graphics and PowerPoint and the decline of Western Civilization as we know it.
Presentations have replaced actual usable written documents. Managers wanted bullet points rather than actual detailed data. Having pretty graphics replaced true usable information. The blame lies with the people but PowerPoint became the impetus to allow this change – hence my well-placed hatred of the “tool.” PowerPoint slide decks often serve in lieu of actual documentation, which is scary. I have actually had managers say, “we have to put a lot of thought into this slide deck, it may get circulated without us to explain it.” Hold it there Tex – at what point did this become our sole source of documentation about the topic? Why is this allowed?
Have you ever seen someone who has a half-hour presentation show up with a slide deck with 40+ slides? “Seriously dude (or dudette – whatever floats your boat), you can’t possibly even show all of those slides…it defies the laws of space and time.”
I have heard managers that have a 3-4 slide limit on presentations they see. That is a good start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the problem.
We have two generations of workers in the workforce that do not know how to provide usable written information. The influx of texting and the evil-influence of PowerPoint has made them weak in professional work-related writing skills. Everything shoved into PowerPoint becomes a fragmented sentence.
Preparation for presentations suck up an estimated 134.8 bazillion dollars in productivity a year (roughly). I would show you my math, but it is in an appendix on a .PPT deck, so you’ll just have to trust me. In some organizations slide preparation for senior leaders is a complex and convoluted process devouring entire teams for days at a time. Look at the flow diagram (Copyright Blaine Pardoe) above. Presentation teams churn a lot time in an attempt to dumb-down complicated information to fit in a bullet-point and graphic format.
Oh, and the graphics…some are mind-blowing. I saw one that was a four-dimensional cube. Not three- four. If you stared into it you could see it bending time and light near the center. It was so complex, so twisted, it should be the subject of a horror film. People spend a lot of time on PowerPoint graphics which prove they lack the skills to use a crayon. Just because you can draw an image, it doesn’t mean you should.
Most companies, to attempt to generate the perception of controlling PowerPoint, have style-guides they have put together to help people build decks. Many of these limit the colors you can use, the templates you can employ, and the fonts and sizes you can utilize. In other words, we have teams of people who are, essentially, PowerPoint Police, in many companies. Just thinking about that makes my right temple throb.
We have lost something – that power of true presentations. Gone are presenters who actually presented useful data. Now we all have a Microsoft-induced teleprompter. We have lost the skills to document detailed and pertinent business information. We have allowed a software tool to determine not only how we share data, but drive how we work in many cases.
Now, you PPT addicts out there may want to blast me, claim that I’m old fashioned, that I don’t understand the complexities of modern corporate communications flow and channels. I’m in the thick of it every day, like millions of others out there. You may believe that I am dead-wrong, that PowerPoint has somehow elevated the way we communicate at work. You may grasp feebly at the straws of thought that say that PowerPoint is the future. Of course, you would be wrong.
Contemplate this. If your PC died at the start of your presentation and your preciously annoying slide deck from hell were lost – would you reschedule or continue on? Those of you that would soldier on – I salute you. You wusses that would reschedule…you are part of the problem.
Let the rebuttals begin! (Oh, and if you liked this, check out my book – Business Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook the Corporate Overlords) I’m entitled to the shameless plug after this rant.