Kill the PowerPoint, at least for meetings

Bill Gates has done so many good things to the corporate world and Microsoft Office is just one of them. I bet there is no single moment in the world where people are not using a product from the Microsoft Office product suite. In fact, Microsoft Office has made life so simple. Gone are the days when people had to spend a lot of time creating content. It is now type, draw shape, or edit. 

But one thing that Bill Gates created may have become too much of a good thing. I am talking about Microsoft PowerPoint and presentations in general.

Presentations are great. They are one of the best ways to show a story in a visual way. But they kill the thought process of the audience and is one of the worst ways to communicate anything that is of value.

Let me tell you why it is not really the best way to communicate your thoughts. It is not interactive at all and prevents any changes during the presentation. You cannot take a duster and rub off any point in the presentation. It also takes away the attention from the speaker and the idea if the presentation that is playing in background is too good.

There is also one reason why presentations are really not a great idea to share ideas. Presentations are meant to summarize data and show the ideas in a subtle way whereas new ideas and thoughts should not be limited to five bullet points. Presentations hide facts whereas documents reveal details.

These are the reasons why Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint for meetings in Amazon. As a replacement, the presenter will have to share the idea as a six-page memo which builds in a narrative structure around the idea or the thought. This is also what the human brains are more comfortable with ā€“ a contextualized communication than a summarized visual.

And presentations are not so simple to create. Documents are simpler to create. People have to waste so much time preparing a presentation and making it beautiful whereas the time spent developing the idea could be seen as a better use of the time.

What should organizations do? Simple. Stop using presentations internally when people are presenting new ideas or requesting for information. Organizations should ask the people to write down what they want in a detailed way. They should ask them to build a narrative around the idea.

For example, if someone is sharing a new idea, organizations should ask them to write a document which covers the following ā€“ what is the idea, what is the value that will be delivered, what will be resources that will be required, what will be the expected output, and an overview of how and when the idea can be implemented. This is just a guideline, but the goal is to make sure that the people think through the idea. A similar kind of document can be prepared when people are presenting to get a go-ahead on a project. As I said, the key is to make the people think through the idea and create a narrative around the idea. So, go ahead and ditch those PowerPoint presentations. In case you want to take a risk, share a word document with your clients and prospects also. Use PowerPoints to make things visual, and not to write stories. And bring back the presenter and the idea into the focus.

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