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On (Power)Point

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos made the news recently when Inc. Magazine reported that Bezos stated in Amazon’s annual report that the company had banned PowerPoint presentations from meetings.

Now, there’s a notion that we’re sure brought loud and sustained cheers from every corner of the business world. Perhaps, justifiably so. Many people hate PowerPoint presentations and hate having to endure them at meetings.

It got so bad at one point that comedian Don McMillan developed a sketch that he dubbed, “Death by PowerPoint.” It was quite funny. Very funny, in fact. (See for yourself.) And what made it so hilarious was the amount of truth in it. Truth be told, there was a lot of truth in it.

So why is PowerPoint so reviled? It’s just a computer program for goodness sake. Is there anything inherently awful about a computer program? Yeah, we’re not talking viruses or malware here.

Maybe, just maybe, it may have something to do with the other element involved in a PowerPoint presentation. And that would be the human element – the person who put it together. If you look at Mr. McMillan’s comedy routine, you’ll see that everything that he skewers in his emasculation of PowerPoint, is the direct result of a choice or a decision or a misappropriation made by the author.

Recently we attended a presentation from a LinkedIn specialist speaking on how to maximize the social media platform in your business. When someone asked about getting a copy of the presentation, she was told that, without having seen the entire live presentation, the PowerPoint would not have much value. That was because the PowerPoint had only cryptic information. The real meat of the presentation was in the speaker’s comments.

And that’s the way it should be. That was how PowerPoint was intended to be used. Display some basic ideas on the screen while the audience listens to the message that the speaker is trying to convey.

The point (no pun intended) is that it’s not PowerPoint that is so burdensome, it’s the people who misuse it in preparing their talks. Used appropriately, PowerPoint can be a useful tool.

You can draw parallels with PowerPoint and any number of other uses, such as: It’s not the camera, it’s the person taking the picture. It’s not the golf club, it’s the guy holding the golf club.

Regardless of how God-awful terrible some PowerPoint presentations can be, for once, let’s not blame Microsoft. It’s not their fault. They made a good product. It’s the human application that screwed it up.

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