What Everyone is Thinking (but not saying) About Your PowerPoint Presentation…

And we all know how things turned out for Ned Stark…

I make no small qualms that I loathe PowerPoint almost as much as I hate attending mindless meetings.  PowerPoint has reprogrammed generations of people in business to think in poorly written, vague bullet points.  While some might argue that it makes us be concise, it reality it is a crutch for people that perform crappy presentations.  Some teams actually use PowerPoint decks as reading material…I guess Word was too complex for them.  Morons.  PowerPoint is to documentation what an abacus is to a computer.

I had a manager once, (She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) who was so obsessed over PowerPoint, she was concerned about people reading them.  “What if this gets forwarded to the wrong person and they read it?”  So we had to create slide decks for this harpy-from-hell that could be understood if you knew nothing about the subject of the deck.  Seriously.  It wasn’t as if we had plans for making an atomic bomb in your basement in the decks we produced.  I have long suspected that she stupidly fretted over someone reading her material without her being in the room to bask in their praise over what she had produced.

I spend a lot of my corporate life in mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations under the guise of being productive meetings.  The majority of PowerPoint decks are mediocre at best, and at worst, they blow chucks.  I have actually started to shift to doing meetings without PowerPoint.  What I have found is that people are so conditioned to seeing the tool in a meeting that it confuses them when you don’t put up slides.  They get nervous and visibly uncomfortable – which I love.  “Aren’t you going to put your slides up?”  “Fu*k no.”  People have actually frowned at me when I tell them that I don’t want to use slides to make my point.  Presentation is an art form that has been corrupted by the evil programming elves at Microsoft.  This PowerPoint/mind-control is so sinister it could be a plot in a James Bond film.

Having vested much of my day-job in meetings under the dull glow of PowerPoint, it is time for me to impart some knowledge.  Let me share with you what people are likely to be thinking, but not saying, during your next sucky PowerPoint presentation:

  • Really?  Forty-six slides to make your point?   That many slides makes me wonder what you are really up to.   What are you hiding?  I’ll bet I can find it.  Game on!
  • Clearly what you define as important has no bearing in reality, as evidenced by your presentation.
  • You can stop reading me your slides.  If you were going to read them to me you should have just sent them to me in an email.  This may shock you but I learned to read years ago.
  • You said, “I’ll keep this short…”  and that was an hour ago. We all want to kill you and some are taking notes on how to do it.
  • We should make prisoners at GITMO sit through your presentation.
  • Pointing out that your slide is hard to read tells me you don’t care.
  • Based on your slides, you clearly worship Satan given that the devil is in the details — which is where you are taking us.
  • Your bullet points read like a drunken teenager’s text messages.  You seem to be a vowel or two short here.
  • A six-point font?  What is this, an eye exam?  Can’t you see we are all squinting?
  • If you are going to use clip art, at least don’t use 1992 quality clip art.
  • No, your graphic does NOT make your point clearer.  In fact, it achieves quite the opposite.
  • Making something bold and red insults me a little.  I know what is important.
  • When I read that slide I keep asking myself, “What is he/she trying to say?”  Even re-reading it leaves me confused.  A bit of my soul is dying inside me as a result.  I hate you.
  • I am not paying attention to what you are saying because your font choice is distracting me.
  • All of your arguments are invalid because of your spelling and grammatical mistakes on one slide.
  • Your use of graphics is making me cry on the inside.
  • Incorporating meaningless buzzwords and phrases does not help your presentation.  You’re not fooling anyone.
  • This all sounds peachy-keen – what does it cost?
  • Don’t blame the projector for your failure to organize your thoughts.
  • If I had wanted to read a book, I would have brought my Kindle.
  • It is hard to believe that we paid you to produce such a hideous slide deck.
  • This presentation is so dull, I am imagining innovative and creative excuses to leave the room.
  • I have done the math.  It is impossible to cover the number of slides you have left in the time we have allotted.
  • My four year old could have produced a better graph, and she’s limited to crayons.
  • Presentations like this is why I am on anti-depressants.
  • I wonder how much it cost us in your time and effort to put together this travesty of a slide deck?
  • Rarely has so much effort gone into presenting such a lie.  You should be congratulated – or shot.
  • I am waiting for the right moment to destroy your entire premise so that the audience will see me as the genius I believe myself to be.
  • It’s probably a bad time to let you know your fly is open.
  • If your graphic can’t fit on a slide, it’s not worth us looking at.
  • I love your material but your abuse of transitions between slides qualifies as a war crime.
  • We’re about due for someone to raise a meaningless point or analogy in an attempt to ruin the hard work you put in on this presentation.
  • If they had told me in business school that I would be doing this for a living (watching your PowerPoint) I would have pursued a liberal arts degree instead.
  • We are all silently curious…are you going to make a point sometime in the next hour or so?  Seriously, any point will do.  Just pick one…please!
  • Oh, I see you Bob – checking your watch.  We both want this to end.  Who in the hell still owns a watch? More importantly, what time is it?
  • If I could take a nap right now, I would. The fact that I am not asleep is worthy of a spot-bonus.
  • There are at least three people watching this presentation that will tear it apart just to be assholes.
  • Your illegal and unethical use of several copywrittten images only makes us hate you a little bit more.
  • Oh joy, you’re using an acronym that no one in the room knows.  You should know, it doesn’t make you any smarter.
  • Because you didn’t follow the company standard template for PowerPoint, I am ignoring everything you are presenting on.
  • It is only a matter of moments before someone questions the validity of your data.
  • My only concern with your presentation is that I wonder if I can muffle my fart – and if I do, can I muffle its smell?
  • Out of your 26 slides, there is only one that matters.  Why didn’t we just start there?
  • Do you realize that you have the wrong audience in the room (on the call) for the material you are presenting?  Do you care?
  • This presentation is all that is between me and a much-needed trip to the bathroom.  Please hurry…
  • As I watch you flip through these slides I cannot help but think that we need to improve our recruitment and hiring standards.
  • I should have had a friend send me a text so I had an excuse to leave this meeting.  Lesson learned…
  • This is an hour of my life I will never get back and will completely forget by the end of the day.
  • I can, and will, derail your entire presentation with a single question – just to prove I can.
  • My phone is vibrating in my pocket and that is much more exciting than this slide show.
  • It would be nice if you told us at some point what the purpose of this meeting is.
  • Please God, don’t let someone say that we need to have another meeting on this subject.
  • Nothing makes me more nauseous than someone saying, “I’ve run out of time, let me go through the last eight slides in two minutes.”
  • You didn’t build in time for questions?  You really thought your material would answer every stupid thing we could come up with?  Really?
  • Why are the boring presentations always scheduled for late in the day on a Friday?  Why are you always the one presenting them?
  • The colors you have chosen are making my eyes bleed on the inside.
  • It’s bad enough your slides are dull, but your droning makes me want to start cutting myself again.
  • The person you rehearsed this with lied to you…it sucks.
  • I am smiling at you only because it makes you think I care.
  • An appendix to your horrible presentation?  And it’s longer than the presentation?  This just became a homework assignment you douchebag.
  • If you’re going to deflect questions to the end – you’d better leave time to answer them.
  • Stop saying things like, “As you clearly can see…” or “This slide points out…”  Let me be the judge of what your slides say or don’t say.  Otherwise, why have me here in the first place?
  • Having our graphics team make a pretty graphic of your material is akin to polishing a turd.


PowerPoint Zaps Actual Office Productivity


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.