The Pentagon is vowing to do battle against an enemy that one top U.S. Marines official says “makes us stupid.” So just who is this formidable enemy? None other than Microsoft PowerPoint.
A story in the April 26 edition of the New York Times points to a slide, widely circulated on the Internet, meant to portray the complexity of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. Complex, it was. But it also showed what can happen when use of such a business tool spirals out of control.
Microsoft’s ubiquitous presentation software is something the business world has both loved and loathed ever since a Mac-based program named “Presenter” was re-christened as PowerPoint in 1987. Darkened board rooms have never been the same.
Many a conference and meeting attendee has sat through his or her share of badly executed PowerPoint presentations. Blocks of indecipherable grey text. Colors and fonts more appropriate for a bag of Easter candy. Goofy animation and silly sound effects. And the overall theme that ties it all together: Lack of a clear message.
If your company makes a lot of these presentations — especially to your customers and clients — it’s worth taking a long, hard look at what you’re putting out there. This isn’t to say you need to hire a design firm to handle your slides (though having someone on your staff with better-than-average knowledge certainly helps). But you need to ask yourself if you’re using PowerPoint to enhance presentations, or if you’re using it as a crutch.
If you’re ready to raise your PowerPoint game, there is a wealth of resources online. A simple Google search for “effective PowerPoint presentations” yields nearly 3 million hits. Online tutorial sites such as Lynda.com also offer informative sessions on PowerPoint-related topics.
But don’t expect those eye-glazing presentations to go away anytime soon. Though perhaps the military will examine a different approach to eliminating the blight.
“If we really want to accomplish something we shouldn’t be teaching our allies how to use PowerPoint,” Duke University military expert Peter Feaver told ZDNet. “We should give it to the Iraqis. We’d never have to worry about them again.”