Break free from your PowerPoint addiction

person at computerIt’s rampant. Insidious. Infectious. Fueled by group think and a desire to appear smart, PowerPoint addiction afflicts nearly every workplace. Sucking up time and resources, this sickness is difficult to treat because many people truly believe that they need slides in order to speak.

Common signs of PowerPoint addiction include:

  • You spend countless hours preparing slide presentations.
  • You agonize over choosing a chart type. Should you go for the 3D exploding pie or stick with the bar graph?
  • When you go to a presentation, you take mental note of the cool transition animations that were used. You get a bit jealous.
  • You reuse, recycle, and “repurpose” presentations that were prepared for a specific use. “You wanted me to give a product update, so I thought I’d run through some of the slides from the recent sales summit.”
  • The more slides, the better.

Your reliance on PowerPoint—and I’m not beating up on Microsoft here; it’s any presentation software—is working against you. Time that could be spend doing something productive, like thinking, is instead being frittered away on choosing font styles and color palettes. Rather than solving problems, you’re focusing on creating visuals to illustrate those problems. Relying on form over content is lazy, and is the opposite of critical thinking.

Most damaging, however, is the fact that using this socially and workplace-acceptable crutch causes your audience to disengage. The human brain is wired to absorb narrative information. We are a species of storytellers, and PowerPoint does a poor job of conveying a story. The linear nature of a presentation prohibits natural discussion. How many times has someone asked a question only to have the presenter say, “Hold that thought. That’s coming up in a few slides.”?

What PowerPoint indisputably succeeds in doing is making the transfer of information and knowledge as difficult as possible. All too often, rather than the slides being a derivative of a more in-depth body of work, they represent the presentation and content. If you’ve ever read through a slide deck in an effort to understand something better, you know how truly awful this is.

RejectionGive it up. Ditch it. Go cold turkey. I know it’s scary. But old school is new again. Try going without PowerPoint at your next presentation. Talk with your audience. Whether your goal is to inform, compel, or present something new, you can do that without a slide deck. The upshot is that your audience will be more engaged and likely to remember what you said because they will be focused on you, and not on reading your slides. And let’s be honest, when is the last time you left a presentation and said to yourself, “Wow, that was an impressive slide deck!”? Stop reducing everything to bullet points and slides. You will thank me later.

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