No one ever danced their way to the office knowing that their day ahead was going to be filled with PowerPoint. Sitting in a meeting where a colleague drones on, and on, about something that requires lots of smart art and bullet points. Or worse, scrambling around their network trying to find slides or create new ones, for their own meeting where they will be the one who gets to drone on in front of their colleagues. PowerPoint does not evoke “warm and fuzzy.” Instead, it usually evokes “corporate pain.”
PowerPoint sucks. First off, its outline format and reliance of bullet points undermines the real substance behind the idea. An outline is just a skeleton, without any muscle or substance that moves the body forward. That substance is what spurs critical thinking, which in turn spurs creativity and ultimately big ideas. Second, its linear list of slides, the progression of ideas is rigid. Conversations and ideas are meant to ebb and flow. One builds off the other. The linear progression inhibits conversation, which is also critical to creativity. Conversations are where you learn. And learning is also where great ideas come from. PowerPoint inhibits creative thinking.
PowerPoint is also used to often as a crutch. When you’re uncomfortable presenting in front of a room full of people, you can always fall back and read the slides. We certainly don’t recommend that, it’s deadly for the audience, and you will lose credibility, but people do it all the time. Why go through extra time, effort and energy if you don’t have to. Your colleagues aren’t doing it, so why should you. The laziness perpetuates.
Above all, PowerPoint’s biggest weakness is the way it’s used. It’s is one-and-done. You spend hours, weeks even, putting together the perfect deck. Sometimes the slides even have input from your company’s brightest minds, like the CEO, or head of product, and then maybe they’ve gone through the graphic design department so they look great. But once the meeting’s over, it gets lost and forgotten somewhere on your company’s network.
Even with its drawbacks though, PowerPoint is still the lowest common denominator for business communications. If it’s important, it’s in PowerPoint. Your company’s most compelling ideas are in a deck somewhere, tangled in some mess of other PowerPoint files and documents. Whether it be for sales, finance, product development, project management, training, every business discipline uses PowerPoint to educate and convince their colleagues to change and act in some capacity. PowerPoint is easy and it’s everywhere.
So how can you leverage PowerPoint’s strengths while minimizing its weaknesses?
Treat PowerPoint and, for that matter all presentation content in general, as enterprise communications – not one and done tactical files. When you make a great presentation, with input from the smartest minds in your company, make it available to the rest of the team where they can re-use and repurpose those slides. Next time create a deck for your meeting, think beyond that one meeting and think about how these same slides, videos, images, etc. can be used across the company in the future. Then, make that content available to the rest of the team via a central repository where they can easily find and re-use the slides. In its simplest form, create a shared drive or folder for presentation content. Or, you can take it further and employ a slide library where all content is already formatted to present and has visual search. This will make it easier for the rest of the team to identify and re-purpose content for their particular meeting.
Whether or not you implement new presentation management technology, the difference is the mindset. Presentations are a well-spring of valuable information that can be used and re-used over again for the benefit of the company of a whole. Not just one person for one meeting. They are communications assets for the long term, much like your website or PR campaign is. When you take an enterprise approach to presentations, you will not only make better presentations for that one meeting, the rest of your staff will not have that ability to make better presentations as well, without starting from scratch. The result is increased productivity and saved time for each employee since they don’t have to start from scratch every time they have a meeting, and stronger brand and messaging for the company. Everyone wins.