The Enemy is PowerPoint
Those words form the headline of a Wall Street Journal article from a few years ago that 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. But behind the scenes are some excellent insights into improving presentations that come right from the top (the commanders themselves) and provide glimpses into the needs of senior executives from which everyone can learn and benefit.
The generals quoted in the article are all critical of PowerPoint, but each deals with the inevitability of PowerPoint in his own way. In their own way, each is implementing aspects of The Audience Manifesto.
“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, I can read faster than you can talk. Send me the reading. I’ll do it. Then you’ll 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 you have a picture of value to show me — one that is truly worth 1,000 words — show it. Otherwise, bring two pieces of paper (instead of 20) and/or learn to use the “B” key on your 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 may brave people in the armed forces. Everyone knows the Boss hates PowerPoint, but a third of those serving under him have the courage to ignore his wishes and use it.