If you work in a corporate setting, or you are still a student, chances are high that you have to work a lot with PowerPoint (PPT). For a while, I ask myself, if we have a healthy way of using it. We spend a lot of time with finishing the slides, so they look prettier. I don’t know if we use all this time we spend on it to be able to say how busy with we are or to be perceived as being busy. It might also “satisfy our need” to be active. And there is a difference between being active and productive.
You might have heard about the Pareto principle. In regard to this, it means that we often spend 80% of our time on activities that generate 20% of the value and 20% of our time on activities that create 80% of the value. Polishing a PPT deck clearly falls in the former category. Imagine how much time you would free up when you stop doing this. But maybe this is the reason we don’t. Then, we a) would have more time to do more valuable work, and we are not sure what this might mean, so anxiety kicks in and we rather spend more time with making our deck pretty, although we often loath this work. Or b) we are perceived as not hard working, so we return to the deck again. Maybe it is a sign that we suffer from mild OCD ^^.
And yes, it is a skill to create beautiful slides with to-the-point information. But we probably also have realized that sometimes what I find good might not be what the other person likes and vice versa. Moreover, you often cannot use a PPT without having someone presenting the content to give context. So, if I need someone to explain it anyway, why is it so important to have a perfect design? Yes, it is about looking professional and it is what we came to expect. But what is more important, the content or the design? And, I know the design should support the content, but if my arrows are a little bit off or boxes jump from one slide to the other shouldn’t interfere with the actual content. Such a presentation is only a draft of something that will lead to action. I think that we should focus more on the acting part and I think it is also in the client’s best interest. We could also use this time for example to figure out who we are talking to and invest more resources to figure out the best approach.
And I have a growing feeling that I waste time with creating beautiful decks. Sure, it is a nice feeling, if I can present something someone else fancies, but when I am totally honest with myself, then I should have spent my time more wisely. On things that bring me closer to my goals or the goals of the project.
I also know that we often don’t have a choice. It might be difficult to convince your boss or colleagues to change the way how we handle the creation of PPT decks. What I do hope is that you reflect a bit on how you want to use PPT and what the goal should be and speak about it with your boss and colleagues. And maybe, when you are in a situation where you can change things, today or in the future, then please change things =). I think it is also in the client’s best interest.
It is a good sign that Amazon’s CEO banned PPT from meetings. Let us use our time more efficiently and let us create a healthier relationship with PPT.
I know this might be a controversial view. And I am interested in your opinion. Please let me know in the comments or write me a mail.
Have a wonderful day and take care, Stephan