When the topic of PowerPoint comes up in my line of work, it seems most clients either love it or hate it. Personally, I’m neutral about it. But, deep down, I sometimes wonder whether my neutrality is really just a cover for a deep-seated insecurity about it. Though I probably shouldn’t admit this in print, I will: Over the years I’ve sat through many PowerPoint presentations that have challenged my comprehension skills.
With this in mind, this heading in today’s Toronto Star caught my eye: Is PowerPoint making us stupid?
Naturally, I read the article with some interest. Unfortunately, it didn’t cover any new ground, though it did present the most common arguments raised about the evils of PowerPoint: it stifles discussion, critical thinking, and thoughtful decision-making. It even mentioned my favourite argument against PowerPoint being used for everything: the fact that some thoughts simply do not lend themselves to being crafted into a bullet list. Hear, hear, I thought!
But perhaps the best thing about the article is a picture of a PowerPoint slide and a quote about the slide allegedly attributable to U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, leader of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The slide, shown to McChrystal last summer, contains a diagram the article describes as looking like a bowl of spaghetti but which was drawn to portray the complexity of the military Coalition’s strategy in Afghanistan. According to the article, when McChrystal saw the diagram his comment was: “When we understand the slide, we’ll have won the war.” Well, well — I guess I’m not the only one whose comprehension skills are sometimes challenged during PowerPoint presentations!
So, with this in mind, my wish for all whose life includes PowerPoint is simple:
May you never create a PowerPoint presentation that prompts a comment like that and may you never have to try to making sense of such a PowerPoint slide!