A Wall Street Journal article from two years ago focused on the amount of time and effort put into developing PowerPoint slides for the war in the Middle East, and how that time is relatively poorly expended.
It’s a fascinating read. If you feel absolutely compelled to use PowerPoint for board presentations and senior management meetings (and that’s a big IF), the article provides some excellent insights into improving how to communicate with decision-makers. These insights come right from the top (the commanders themselves) and provide glimpses into the needs of senior executives from which everyone can learn.
The generals quoted in the article are all critical of PowerPoint, but each deals with their perceived inevitability of PowerPoint in his own way. And each, in his own way, is implementing aspects of The Audience Manifesto. (Of course, these generals could simply issue a direct order that PowerPoint not be used; one could assume that nobody would dare disobey.)
“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reviews printed-out PowerPoint slides at his morning staff meeting, although he insists on getting them the night before so he can read ahead and cut back the briefing time.”
In other words, the general can read faster than someone else can talk. “Send me the reading,” he seems to be saying, “I’ll do it. Then answer my questions when we get together. And, by the way, don’t bring additional slides to the briefing.”
Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and says that sitting through some PowerPoint briefings is “just agony,” nonetheless likes the program for the display of maps and statistics showing trends.
If someone has a picture of value to show the general — one that is truly worth 1,000 words — he wants them to show it. Otherwise, bring two pieces of paper (instead of 20) and/or learn to use the “B” key on the keyboard (and blank the screen) when the picture’s no longer necessary.
General Mattis, despite his dim view of the program, said a third of his briefings are by PowerPoint.
In other words, there are many brave people in the US armed forces. Everyone knows the Boss hates PowerPoint, but a third of those serving under him still have the courage to use it!