Along with computer literacy, professional presentation skills are becoming a new survival skill in the workplace. “   – Ethel M. Cook 

And as with any survival tactic, we look towards technology to provide us with the equipment.  Luckily we in the presentation game have been ably supported and assisted by the marvellous ability to produce our message through the great and good means of PowerPoint.  A boon to everyone!  Or is it?

Like anything else – the proof is in the usage.  A hunter might use a rifle to provide food for the table; it could also be used defensively if faced with wild animals.  But a rifle in the wrong hands?  Well that would be a different situation entirely.

Technology is similarly a two-edged sword.  Used with knowledge and a deep understanding of its benefits and possible problems, PowerPoint is a brilliant weapon in our ability to survive presentations in the workplace.  But in the wrong hands it can cause more problems than it solves.

In fact, the situation is becoming so bad, that that ‘laid-to-rest’ dinosaur the Overhead Projector is actually beginning to creep back into popularity owing to its simplicity and ease of use.  Could anything be more astonishing?

Well, not if we recall some of the mind-numbing experiences we have had with PowerPoint! Marketed as the answer to a presenter’s dream, it has cured more insomniacs than drugs, and our love affair with complex colourful graphics has consumed us with a passion.

In fact, if such a dedicated follower of innovation as the Pentagon can now admit that its “‘communication pipeline’ was being consumed with excessively complex and large PowerPoint presentations”; we know that the rot reaches right to the top.

And it need not be like this.  The brilliance of PowerPoint is in its simplicity. And just because we can do something does not mean that we must do something. If only we could tattoo that mantra into the brain, we may have a hope.  And yet, as I sit through another presentation of intricate charts and graphs; with minute printing crossing and re-crossing the slides; with bullet points exploding into view with the sound of ricochets (most unnerving to the ex-military) and an unexpected video bursting onto the scene with no warning – I wonder will we ever get it right?

PowerPoint – like the rifle – is merely the means; it is the user that creates the outcome, and it is the user that must take responsibility if they use it incorrectly.

Ah … I hear you say … but if we don’t know any better, is it our fault?  Well, let’s look at the rifle again.  As with the hunter, the rifle is the survival weapon of the infantry soldier; but they go through detailed training on how to use the rifle, how to maintain it, how to live alongside it with safety and respect.  

No soldier I ever knew would carelessly throw his rifle down without being meticulous about the safety aspects.  Neither would he take it out to the range practice without carefully cleaning and inspecting it.  Concerning their survival equipment soldiers are well versed in the problems as well as the benefits.

If the professional needs to have equally professional presentation skills to survive in the jungle of the workplace, then they need to be equally meticulous about the way they approach their survival equipment, the PowerPoint software.  It too can be a weapon of destruction if not used correctly.

There are many books, articles and workshops that seek to enlighten us to the terrors of a HID trigger happy presenter being let loose on an unsuspecting audience.  So we are not short of training manuals or activities. Surely, if we attack the problem with seriousness and tenacity we can win this war.

I quite like the OHP, but to see it slowly edging it way back into the game simply because we treated our real survival weapon so cavalierly is not to be thought of. 

So to the barricades fellow PowerPoint lovers; be mindful of your responsibilities, and take the oath to teach our new recruits the safety standards needed for working with the technology.

If not we might be overwhelmed with more victims of that dreadful phenomena “Death by PowerPoint!”
Michele @ Trischel

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