“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

Gen. James Mattis, retired US Joint Forces Commander

Last week I was in a meeting, and things were going OK… until PowerPoint reared its ugly head. I immediately shut down, went to my happy place and zombie-nodded my way through 45 minutes of over-loaded slides, piss-weak presenting and awful fade-in effects. (Sally, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. You seemed nice.)


Look—PowerPoint is dead. It’s gone. Leave it in the ground, don’t drag its bloated corpse around the office. No one needs to see that.


How are we STILL having this conversation? PowerPoint is rubbish. Criminally bad presenters keeping their heads down and reading their slides verbatim makes my blood boil, but it’s worse than that—it’s so useless that it becomes dangerous.


I wrote a long while back about an article I had read that highlighted that the “NASA report on the 2003 crash of the Columbia space shuttle indicated engineers had become too reliant on presenting complex information in jumbled slides, making it difficult to assess risks”, and how “It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation”.




Let’s not f*ck about here, if PowerPoint can’t holding the interest of senior leaders at the world’s leading space agency in a life-or-death scenario, it sure as shit can’t hold the interest of your prospects, clients and stakeholders.


*Infomercial voice* “But wait, there’s more…”


During the war in Kosovo, CIA analysts gathering intelligence for NATO focused on a Serbian government weapons factory in Belgrade. A PowerPoint slide of their intel. was shared across NATO and the US intelligence services and somehow mistaken for an order (because the slide in question used the same template as US military command for the Serbian campaign… seriously). The target was bombed.


… And it turned out not to be an arms factory—but the Chinese Embassy.




That’s how much attention highly-trained, highly-focused and individually vetted information analysts working for US military command pay to PowerPoint presentations in life-or-death situations.




In the corporate sphere PowerPoint isn’t used to help engagement—it’s used as a crutch for shit presenters. It gets in the way of forming genuine, mutually beneficial relationships. It gets in the way of free-flowing conversation, of transparent interactions and real communication. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, PowerPoint presentations are “easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience”.


In fact, a 2009 educational study by Savoy, Proctor, & Salvendy showed that students understand and retain 15% less information from a PowerPoint-assisted lecture than from the ‘chalk-and-talk’ equivalent. Students who didn’t attend the lectures at all but sat at home and read the relevant bit of their textbooks understood and retained more than the PowerPoint crowd.


PowerPoint. Is. Shit.


And yet thinkoutsidetheslide.com report that over 26% of office workers are still sitting through at least one PowerPoint presentation a day. That’s lazy presenters, half-arsed, broken enablement teams, and useless, throw-back trainers royally f*cking up. Every. Single. Day.


Visual comms can unlock incredible potential across your organisation, and lead to exponential growth in your bottom line… but only if you’re using the right resources in the right way. Amazon, Linkedin, GlaxoSmithKline, massive areas of the US military, and many other industry-leading organisations have already banned PowerPoint altogether—why haven’t you?


PowerPoint is dead, and it’s taking you down with it. Let’s burn it and move on. If you’re interested in harnessing visual comms in a way that encourages genuine engagement, mastery of the subject, easy and effective information transfer and offers demonstrable and impressive ROI… well, follow Whiteboard Strategies or connect with Mark on LinkedIn, or sign up to The Edwards Update now for monthly insight, delivered straight to your inbox.

– Tom @WSL