PowerPoint Madness

posted May 28, 2013, 10:25 AM by Tia Karelson
June 4, 2012

PowerPoint Madness

The other day I was talking with the President of a consulting firm about a potential project with a large corporation. Sixty seconds into the call, he asked for a PowerPoint sample. I have created zillions, okay hundreds, of PowerPoints since 1996 when my market research firm moved from Word reports to PowerPoint. By the end of the call, he no longer needed a sample. It was clear I’d lived the PowerPoint life. 

As soon as PowerPoint came up, my body filled with dread. I had visions of spending hours upon hours crafting PowerPoints for executives who at the end of the presentation, would ask for another deck. It would become a never-ending cycle.  

Corporations often claim to disdain PowerPoints, yet simultaneously, PowerPoints are proof of work. Without PowerPoint, projects and people do not exist. Your project must have “visibility,” meaning regular PowerPoint presentations to executives, and if you are not presenting, your name better be on someone’s slide. 

The original intention of PowerPoint was a good one. Use words and visuals to tell a story, while keeping the number of words on the slide to a minimum, and maintaining plenty of white space. Remember ClipArt? Remember spending hours to find just the right, yet generic image, and getting annoyed if someone else used the same image in their presentation? How dare them!  

PowerPoints could be stand-alone documents.  A presenter was not necessary for someone to understand the slides. Today, it is the opposite. I recently saw a Tweet that said if someone can understand your slides just by looking at them, you have failed. Slides require presentation, thus requiring a presenter. Isn’t this like requiring the author to come over and read to you? What is the point in creating a document that cannot convey ideas clearly? 

Today, the PowerPoint is alive and well, but there is a new kid on the block, the Infographic. Infographics are visual representations of data, combining words and pictures. They are challenging to create, but fun and simple for the reader. Two words not often associated with PowerPoints. They can be understood without a presenter. I will be watching the trajectory of the Infographic. Perhaps in a decade, I’ll be asked for a sample Infographic before landing a consulting job. 

In business, documentation is necessary. We need tools to keep track of what we’ve learned, ideas, plans and progress. My goal in working with Market Karma's clients is to create documents that summarize, synthesize, and can be referenced months later, without requiring my presence.