My Love/Hate Relationship with PowerPoint
Monday, July 9, 2007
There are many, many reasons why I love PowerPoint. It’s intuitive…it helps make eloquent and impactful arguments…and pardon my dorkiness, but it can be downright fun to use.
But I also hate PowerPoint. While it can be a very um…powerful tool, I believe it has dumbed down corporate culture.
If you haven’t seen it yet, comedian Don McMillan’s standup bit on PowerPoint is something every business professional should view. McMillan’s humorous take on PowerPoint faux pas is essentially a reinterpretation of Seth Godin’s PowerPoint how-to , discussed recently here in the Unbound Edition forum.
Both McMillan and Godin point to the fact that PowerPoint is misused far too frequently. PowerPoint should accompany, not lead your presentation. To Godin’s point, a truly powerful speaker doesn’t even need a PowerPoint safety net. Information contained in PowerPoint should be boiled down to the most basic elements possible.
However, that’s the problem. More often than not, the PowerPoint serves as a final deliverable to clients or internal audiences. Even if there is a separate leave-behind document, the odds of the materials getting a thorough read are relatively slim. In addition, institutional memory can often be counted in nanoseconds, so no matter how powerful your argument, it’s likely to fade away soon after you close your laptop.
Tech blogger David Sheets recently noted McMillan’s video, and referenced a scary example of PowerPoint’s tendency to dumb down important information. While most corporate presentations don’t hold lives in the balance, the NASA space shuttle example should teach us all an important lesson.
There is no doubt that PowerPoint is the language of business. It’s an essential tool for providing synopses to corporate leadership and internal teams. For the most part, it’s a highly intuitive, user-friendly tool that allows even the most inartistic buffoon to craft a pretty presentation. But is that necessarily a good thing?
In some ways, I believe technological advances such as PowerPoint are robbing us of the nuance behind the bullet points. The world’s collective knowledge is at our fingertips through Google searches and Wikipedia. But when everything is boiled down to sound-bite info, are we really learning anything at all?
Navigating and minimizing complexity is essential, and we’re no doubt better off having tools like PowerPoint in our back pockets. My fear is that we’re headed towards a “Cliff Notes” culture where the details and subtleties of arguments and information fall through the cracks. Some may say I’m an alarmist, but I’m not the only one . What are your thoughts?