Death by PowerPoint

via sid, in the comments at CDR Salamander’s place, the NYT actually has a great article.

I was pretty fortunate that my Army job rarely had any PowerPoint presentations. In fact, the first time I saw PPT was during my tour as a recruiter. This was in the mid-90s. Our recruiting battalion was the first to be issued laptop computers to assist in our sales presentations. We had proprietary videos and such. We also had Microsoft Office, but there were no prepackaged PPT presentations. I put together a few to back up the information I wanted to present.

I was far more likely to get this tab, than a real Ranger tab

In my civilian job, making presentations was a huge part of my daily duties. My boss very rarely did a slideshow, however. Mostly we used printed and bound slides as a leave-behind to reinforce what his sales pitch was.

I think that is the key to using PPT effectively. Many people use PPT as a replacement for a proper presentation, rather than a tool to reinforce the main points they want to make. One of the reasons this is so frustrating is that over many years, the services have developed ways to effectively communicate complex plans quickly through a format that is universally understood (such as the 5-paragraph operations order) and then promptly sets these methods aside for a slideshow.

6 thoughts on “Death by PowerPoint”

  1. “Guns don’t kill people, bullet points do.” – Seth Godin.

    The absolute best user of PowerPoint (well, Keynote) Steve Jobs is his presentations. He uses the graphics to reinforce and not replace what he’s saying, something 95% of people who use PowerPoints forget.

  2. They’re complaining about 30 slides and 25 minutes? They should have sat through the 2 hour, 97 slide gas-free training the whole ship had to do a couple of weeks back. Half-way through I was ready to kill someone.

  3. Part of my “day job” entails suggesting, and coercing a military audience into adopting conventions for information management. Time and time again, we fall back on the standard information templates – OPORD, SitRep, etc. You can’t improve much on those old standards.

  4. One of my troopers put together a 200 slide ppt for stables training on convoy ops. I won the pool, with the first soldier falling asleep at 27 minutes (I had the 25 to 30 min time slot). I tried to get him to shorten it and also tried to explain the purpose of a ppt, but we were so close to show time, he had to run with it. Wow.

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