The 365 Commitment

Kill Powerpoint

Kill powerpoint. Trust me, it is killing your human interaction.

I made a commitment to stop using powerpoint for a year. I removed the software program from my life completely. I included Google Slides in that commitment as well. I made this decision because I noticed an interesting trend in the business world. Every meeting, even a simple team meeting, now required someone to “share my deck.”

This was happening pre-covid, but the reaction to the pandemic increased this phenomena. In the normal world, most people do not know powerpoint all that well. They see it in their office365 subscription, but do not understand what it is for. Most people rely on having conversations with people to communicate ideas. They share information with each other by having a discussion.

Not in the corporate tech world. Oh no. We have evolved. We no longer need trivial things like human interaction (sarcasm here). We can now skip all that and share my slides and start talking. As a small courtesy we will reserve time for “questions at the end.” Powerpoint has ruined our communication skills. A successful meeting is a good deck. I have actually heard people say this, “wow, that was an amazing meeting.” Not because we actually solved anything. Not because we came to any conclusions. Not because we worked out a complicated problem. Rather, because the slide deck looked pretty. This has become so ridiculous that corporate branding is now a “good template.” A deck that everyone can use that looks the same. We actually want our people to all show each other a deck that looks exactly the same. Same colors. Same stock photos. Same chart layouts.

I came to the conclusion that powerpoint was the business killer. Preventing good meetings from taking place. Halting interaction in its tracks. I heard people actually say, “ok, we need to move along from this discussion, I have 15 more slides to get through.” The funny thing is, we all know this. We talk about “death by powerpoint.” We open the meeting up with comments like, “I am not going to drain this entire slide.” A few days ago, I heard someone joke around by saying, “I prepared 60 slides for this 30 minute meeting.” Sad, he had prepared 30. 1 minute per slide.

People have come to the belief that preparing for a meeting is actually the same as creating a deck. If you do not bring a deck to the meeting, people look at you with horror and disgust. They will say, “wow, they were not prepared at all.” People want to “see your deck ahead of time,” as a way to determine if the meeting will be worth their time.

I gave a presentation a few years ago in front of an audience. The coordinator of the conference asked me for “my deck.” She kept pestering me until I finally said, “I am not going to have a deck.” She became unglued. Total shock. “What are you going to talk about then?” I brought 50 pieces of construction paper with a cartoon printed and a pack of crayons for each attendee. We drew pictures together about my topic. People were looking at me as if I was some alien that had come to invade them. The presentation did not go great, I actually had an opinion. I actually asked people to speak out and raise objections and have dialog. They wanted to sit there and absorb another deck. They felt hurt because they could not raise their hand and “ask me for a copy of my deck.”

When I first started my commitment to stop using powerpoint for a year, I had some difficult moments. The first came when a partner of ours came to an onsite meeting to present to my sales team. While we ate lunch, the started getting setup. Portable projector, removed pictures from the wall for a good surface. Placing fresh batteries in their hand held “clicker.” They were getting ready for the “meeting.” They bought us lunch, so now they have earned the right to show us their corporate slide deck for an hour. Never mind the fact that we had all seen this exact same deck no less than 30 times. When they got up to present, I informed them that I had a moritorium on powerpoint. Sorry, we do not allow powerpoint here.

They were incredulous. Actually upset. They insinuated (which was false) that had spent a lot of time preparing for this “prezo.” They looked lost. What are we going to talk about then? The interesting thing is that I actually remember the discussion in that meeting. Two years later and I have had people commment on “that great meeting we had.” It was rememberable. Why? Simple. We had a lively debate, back and forth about how to grow a certain market segment. The partner actually had great things to say, once they put the clicker down. They had good answers, they had great ideas. They learned that my team had an intelligint disposition. In short we talked to each other. Earth shattering, I know.

Not using powerpoint for a year was tough. Everything is in ppt now. Business reviews. Forecasts. Projections. Status reports. Everything. My poor team had to “do my powerpoints for me.” I started experimenting with other tools. Prezi, Canva, etc. I started coming up with creative ways to use drawings and pictures. We would bring up data and examine the results, together. At one meeting, I used soda cans to talk through a concept. 30 or 40 sodacans of different types spread across the conference room table. My team stopped thinking a powerpoint was “preparation.” That was a difference maker. People were now forced to come up with ideas, rather then showing abbreviated words on a slide.

The most important lesson that I learned is that meeting preparation is more than slides. I learned that an effective meeting requires me to figure out what people want to get out of the meeting. Before hand. A meeting requires several meetings and 1:1 discussions before the event. I need to figure out what issues are stake, what the problems are, and what is causing us the greatest pain. If I open a meeting to discussion, I need to prepare people in advance. They need to have time to think. To process and develop an opinion. I need to find out who my troublemakers are, and who my allies are. Before the meeting ever starts. I actually need to figure out how the meeting is going to flow, before I get into the room. I need to figure out constructs to create interaction.

I learned that powerpoint kills. Kills human interaction. Kills productivity. Kills effective communication. My advice for effective meetings, and improved communciation is to ditch the slides. Prepare to talk with people and not at people. Everyone loves dialog. Everyone wants to have an audience. Being heard. If people have a great experience they will hold your meetings in reverence. Imagine that. Instead of “I loved your deck,” you hear, “that was inspiring.” Imagine if you actually found out what your client needed. Imagine if you determine what was actually slowing you down. Imagine if you left a meeting and felt like it was not a waste of time?

Kill powerpoint. Trust me, it is killing your human interaction.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share the Post:

Recent Blogs

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x