Or does human idiocy have no end?
Isn’t it a fact that presentations are getting more and more important in the world of business communications? And the quantity of presentations taking place worldwide every day is probably innumerable. At the same time, following this trend, we do see a multiplication of tools available to facilitate presenters’ lives. Oddly, the most common of these tools, being by far the most efficient, is also the most unjustifiably and dumbly criticized: PowerPoint!
Ever since the visual communication “expert”, Edward Tufte growled the most unreasonable of (pre)concepts ever raised against a tool (death by PowerPoint), waves of bleats from herds of followers against the “evils” of PowerPoint seem to have no end at sight!
From NASA’s accusation of guilt for the Columbia space shuttle accident in August 2003 to the responsibility for the unsuccessful military interventions in Afghanistan pointed by US generals in 2010 and even the birth of the ridiculous Swiss Anti PowerPoint Party, reactions to PowerPoint have often been absurd.
If that was not enough, early last month we watched top General Motors executives blaming PowerPoint for the changes in their company’s corporate culture, which resulted in its recent declaration of bankruptcy.
Has it ever occurred to anyone in their right mind to blame a bad speech on the pencil or the paper used in its writing? Tools aren’t to be blamed for its bad use, users are! A hammer and a chisel, by themselves don’t make anyone a mason or a sculptor, but these same tools in the right hands, helped Michelangelo create Pietà for the world!
Just like a hammer and a chisel, PowerPoint is only a tool, a great tool indeed, but not a magic wand which does all the job by itself — and thus may be held accountable for the end results. Due to such apparent easiness and accessibility, less attentive users have flooded the world of slides with more than doubtful presentations.
Companies, managers and other responsible professionals invest lots of time and resources, both human and financial, in the development of projects and products. When required to invest time in the fields of communication, marketing and advertising, they don’t create their content in-house, but they call upon experts such as communication and/or advertising agencies.
Oddly, very often risking those same investments, many of them act differently for a presentation! Why are they devaluing a pivotal point in any project – its presentation – to stockholders, investors, media, etc. in such a way?
What if only, due to savings, laziness, or even pure bad management, results end up going down the drain? Then, as in the cases cited above, they’ll point fingers to the tool they used so irresponsibly? And that tool, more often than not happens to be PowerPoint.
The fact is that, for those slide moments, there are also experts including presentation designers and professionals who work the contents of their clients’ presentations into more efficient pieces of communication, not just “prettier” ones.
Contrary to perception, it’s important to understand that design is not mere decoration. Design means development, shaping and optimization of a function and, as in everything else design makes the difference in presentations!
This text reflects only the personal opinions of someone who’s been a presentation designer for the last 30 years. To those who deem this class inconsistent, I hope to have, at least helped to arouse reflection, to those who deem them unreasonable. Never mind…I can always blame Microsoft Word for my words!
Miguel Monteiro is Owner & Master Designer at TRIBE Presentations (Portugal). Miguel has been a graphic designer/illustrator, working in Advertising and Communication Design since 1978 and developing computer based multimedia presentations since 1988, for many high end clients. Currently, Miguel focusses on creative consultancy and project development in business multimedia presentations design, video & audio production, event and scene design, exhibitions, etc.