PowerPoint / slide shows: the antithesis of thinking

I hate Microsoft PowerPoint users. I hate all slide show users, actually.

Hate. I’m a hater.

I hate slide show presentations because:

  • people stare at the presentation rather than listening to and hearing what’s being said
  • people stare at the slide show rather than looking at the presenter 
  • people think reading the slide show later, having missed the actual meeting, will provide them with all the information needed
  • the presenter often stares at the presentation instead of the audience

I’m not the only hater…  a Swiss political party wants to outlaw the software. I’m sure it’s a joke, but it is true when the organizers say that slideshow software (and unnecessary meetings and presentations in general) are boring employees and costing companies billions in lost work.

But the problem is much worse than boredom: T.X. Hammes’ blog Dumb-dumb bullets: As a decision-making aid, PowerPoint is a poor tool really struck a chord a few years ago, and it’s worth it to revisit. Hammes uses PowerPoint to mean any slide show, even though there is a range of software that people use to create boring slide show presentations:

(PowerPoint) is actively hostile to thoughtful decision-making. It has fundamentally changed our culture by altering the expectations of who makes decisions, what decisions they make and how they make them.

He continues

Before PowerPoint, staffs prepared succinct two- or three-page summaries of key issues. The decision-maker would read a paper, have time to think it over and then convene a meeting with either the full staff or just the experts involved to discuss the key points of the paper. Of course, the staff involved in the discussion would also have read the paper and had time to prepare to discuss the issues. In contrast, today, a decision-maker sits through a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by five minutes of discussion and then is expected to make a decision. Compounding the problem, often his staff will have received only a five-minute briefing from the action officer on the way to the presentation and thus will not be well-prepared to discuss the issues. This entire process clearly has a toxic effect on staff work and decision-making.

If I didn’t know that Hammes retired from the Marine Corps after 30 years, I would swear, based on the above, that he, too, worked at the United Nations. Please read the entire blog. He’s so right on.

I do slide shows for my presentations because they are expected by whomever hires me, but, honestly, I don’t really need them, and I frequently forget to forward a slide because I’m too busy walking around and looking into the eyes of the audience and talking with them, listening to them, etc. I like for my presentations to be lively and to have a healthy dose of discussions, with the audience chiming in throughout the presentation with their own thoughts, even answering each others’ questions, instead of all answers and information coming from me. Slide shows kill this  interaction. They kill listening. Instead, audience see glowing colored lights, audience stare at glowing colored lights, audience no listen, audience no think.
And don’t even get me started on laptops and smart phones during presentations…
Next time you are asked to do a slide show for a presentation, think about what it is you are really trying to accomplish with that slide show. Is a slide show really the right mechanism to deliver your message? Are you relying on it WAY too much?

Tags: communications, presentations, teaching, training, software, presenter, trainer, consult, consulting, briefing, communicating, outreach, interaction, audience

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *