Angry Rant: Pointing in the Wrong Direction

I hate Power Point. 

Nothing comes close to sitting in a meeting where the briefer starts out the event by saying something brilliant like, “In the next eighty-six slides I will summarize the blah blah blah…”

Really?  Summarize?  Seriously?  No, what really happens then is the assclown proceeds to grind through the brief, reading verbatim every bullet.  It gets to the point where you actually pray for a chart without words just to see if the idiot knows the subject matter.  As if that’s not bad enough, every audience seems to have a dilweed intent on asking at least one question per slide, mainly to point out inconsistencies and play ‘gotcha’ with the insipid briefer.  After only fifteen slides or so, most of us in the audience are in a coma, mentally at least, trapped silently inside our own heads and mentally screaming for someone to set fire to the building, go on a shooting rampage, stab them or anything to make the torture end.  We optimistically allocate an hour for such events, but know going in that the hour will come and go, ignored like a vegetable tray at a kids’ Chuck E Cheese birthday party.

I’m not sure what line of work you’re in, but I can tell you the military wouldn’t be able to function without PowerPoint at this… uh, point.  Nothing happens without a briefing supported by PowerPoint.  While stuff happens, we have to make PowerPoint’s explaining what’s going on.  After stuff is over, we have to discuss what went wrong and affix blame with a briefing.  In fact, if we don’t do a slide, whatever we just did never existed or happened.  I am beginning to wonder how we pulled of the invasion of Normandy without a PowerPoint briefing.  One that outlined the plan, weather, total number of individual rounds of ammunition, the tally of extra socks across the invasion force, and the average length of the left big toe of every GI who was due to hit the beach.  Important shit, to summarize, that Eisenhower probably wanted to know but nobody told him because there was no PowerPoint.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only painful aspect of PowerPoint is sitting through presentations, either.  Someone built that 134-slide Sominex that will turn your brain to putty, and sometimes that jackwagon is me.  This is a cyclic process of making all fonts the same, aligning things, realigning them, changing colors, shrinking font size, making fonts bigger, changing words for subtle nuances of meaning, adding more exciting stuff, and the list goes on.  And on.  I have watched a Major direct mouse moving and typing over the shoulder of a Lieutenant.  The poor kid was clearly trying to decide whether to jam his pen in his eye socket or the Major’s just to end the stupidity.  I have worked on briefings for sums of hours where the ‘editor’ (Code: an anal, Type-5A obsessive-compulsive dick personality)  makes changes to the changes he made earlier.  All for a brief scheduled to last all of an hour (but we’ve covered that one).

We are losing the ability to frame problems and propose solutions because we mistakenly believe that if we put information into bullets, then the entire concept will self-present.  In truth, most of us are rank amateurs, and as I described earlier, we wind up essentially taking a text document and bulletizing sentences and paragraphs.  Worse, it makes vomiting reams of raw data onto a chart far too easy and bypasses analysis.  I took two public speaking classes in high school: speech, and one imposingly called Rhetoric.  Most of my current peers never did this, and sadly a briefing is in large part public speaking.  As a result, the notions of knowing the subject cold enough to ad-lib material, the concept of knowing your audience and pitching adaptively are nonexistent.  Briefs today are a robot grinding mindlessly through material regardless of audience interaction. The word ‘brief’ to me now is ironic, because a briefing, by definition, is supposed to be just that: brief.

The only saving grace to a death-by-slides experience is when the brief recipient gets involved because they know all about the subject, and an epic verbal sodomization of the moron with the laser pointer ensues. All others present enjoy the schadenfreude* moment as the briefer is reduced to a puddle of spit and urine, curled up in the fetal position under the screen.

I’ve managed to stumble up the promotion ladder enough to have people actually come to me with briefings. I try to do my part in my anti-PowerPoint campaign, normally by saying, “No slides. Just tell me about it. Use your words.” I like to think I get a lot more information that way, the important stuff that goes on behind the tables, graphs, and bar charts. I’d love to know what sort of fuckery goes on in the business world. It may drive my decisions about military retirement. Or just go somewhere and suck-start my 9mm.

* Note: schadenfreude means ‘to experience pleasure at someone else’s pain.’ This concept is appropriately German.

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94 Responses to “Angry Rant: Pointing in the Wrong Direction”

  1. There’s a whole school of thought as to the futility of using PowerPoint for presentations. You’re not only enrolled at the school, you may very well be the Dean!

  2. I think you should summarize this blog post in PP presentation! 🙂

    • I should have seen these comments coming, huh?

      • I’m always a bit of a smart ass! But, I totally agree that the use of PP has been overdone on most fronts. I like it best when some jackhole manager that has been living in 1982 finally discovers it for the first time and then they use it on everything! They are always super impressed with themselves.

  3. savorthefolly Says:

    I really think you should have put this blog into a powerpoint presentation.

    My experience with powerpoint is primarily in the academic setting but a few times we were hired by pharmaceutical companies to run studies so that gave me a peek into the business world. I would say that in academia the currency is publications – so a powerpoint is just a tool you use to convince the audience that you’re study is well designed and that the findings are significant. The competition is fierce to show that your work MATTERS – ultimately it is the quality of the study design and findings that really matter but a lot of the really skilled rscientists know how to use powerpoint to their advantage in selling the importance of their study.

    In the business world the currency is of course – money. I have less experience with powerpoint in the business world, but I will say that if you want to make everyone sit through a boring ass/tedious powerpoint presentation, you’d better have convinced them at the outset that there is money to be made despite your terrible presentation skills.

  4. In my life as an employed person, I sat through plenty of power point presentations. In every case, before the start of the presentation, a handout would be passed out. The handout was the power point presentation. WTF? They could have just emailed the thing to me.

    I much preferred power point’s predecessor: hand-lettered transparencies on an overhead projector. Invariably, a transparency would be placed on the screen backwards or upside down and the speaker would rattle on without realizing the mistake. Those presentations were mildly entertaining.

    • We do handouts too. Usually when there’s a graphic so packed with detail they’re impossible to digest, and the hand-outs are 2/page black and whites – to save money.

  5. Alright, here’s what you need to do. You need to find a way to cut in multiple subliminal images of your “fuck” tee-shirt, and then on the way out of the building have the shirts available for sale. Or cut in gay porn and REALLY have fun (Just don’t look at the screen yourself).

    And thanks for looking up schadenfreude for me. Now I can add it to my Brainrants dictionary along with hectare and FUBAR. It’s sad that I didn’t have to look up sodomization, though.

    At some point you’ll have to describe the process in which someone would “suck-start” a 9mm, because I can’t figure out if that sounds really really fun or really really gay.

  6. I spent seven years working with a Fortune 500 company and they LOVE their powerpoints too! I once did a presentation on a particular profile for the District Manager and didn’t prepare a powerpoint presentation and used handouts containing stats and numbers.

    Later I was told that next time I should use a powerpoint for my presentation. Apparently no one understood a thing I said without those slides… lol.

  7. mkultra76 Says:

    I asked my husband what was on his workday agenda today after reading this. (He’s former Military, and now involved in the fuckery of the business world.) Meetings. And more meetings. Some featuring power point presentations. He has to work from home when he wants to get actual WORK done because of all the stupid meetings–meetings which usually feature power point presentations about how not enough work is getting done. When he makes power point presentations for his own meetings, he usually throws in a slide or two with the Black Knight from Monty Python, or a ridiculous photo of something like a pufferfish, just to check if anyone is still paying attention.

  8. I had to sit through many a mundane power point presentations in church having to do with missionaries when I was younger. It’s like, oh! look at that cute Asian kid who found God! He looks exactly like the other 700 Asian kid pictures you just showed us! Although, I’m guessing for the military, the power point presentations are even more boring. At least you have time to write a blog in your head….

  9. John Erickson Says:

    I’ll let Elite handle the gay porn. Best to assign things to your subject matter expert. 😉
    I/T folks LOVE PowerPoint. That’s why you need to know two key things – the prickiest of the pricks who will try to “gotcha” the hose, and where the breakers for the conference room are. Bribe the “gotcha” person, and challenge them to do the BEST job of “gotcha” they can. If that fails, slip off to the bathroom, find a peon, lead them to the breakers, and tell them to kill the power in 3 minutes. Then you slip back into the meeting, making sure you make just enough noise to be noticed returning. Three minutes later, you’re in the dark (physically now), and the presenter is totally befuddled, so the meeting is cancelled.
    This DOES work. Trust me.

    • *scribbling notes*

    • The Elite of Just Alright Says:

      John! I told you…your mom said NO INTERNET today! What do we have to threaten to make you listen?

      I’m sorry, guys, John’s not right today. We threw his pills out the window last night and we just found out now.

      NO! JOHN! Do NOT touch the flamethrower again!

      GOD HELP US ALL!

      QUICK, MARY, Call the FEDS!

    • John Erickson Says:

      (Dusts himself off.) Don’t bother the Feds. They’ll never find anything. I was trained by the best in Chicago … “rubbish” disposal. 😉

  10. Hehe good post. Makes me think of last week when we had a meeting using a power point presentation to outline a future meeting. I kept asking why we needed a meeting to cover what our next meeting was about. It seemed like a huge waste of time that no one could explain. Anyway, my biggest pet peeve is one that you stated…the dillweed that asks questions on every fucking slide, prolonging the retarded, useless meeting even further. Im glad I’m not you. My meetings are limited to once every 2 weeks.

  11. A powerpoint presentation is only as effective as the person with the clicker. If they know what they are doing . . . the slides just reinforce the key points as they chat extemporaneously with the audience.

    I have also seen them used well as “graduation addresses” to our AmeriCorps members ~ showing slides of the members in action at their sites and service projects as a THANK YOU for their year of service.

    I have also see powerpoints that made me want to run away. Ack!

    Great points.

  12. The Elite of Just Alright Says:

    Ranter, I feel you must feel like a young dad again. USE YOUR WORDS, LT!

  13. “ignored like a vegetable tray at a kids’ Chuck E Cheese birthday party.” That line was sheer genius!

    I too hate Power Point. You need a smart phone so you can pretend to be listening but really be playing Angry Birds.

  14. As a veteran of countless boring-as-hell PP presentations, I concur with everything you said while doing a spit-take with my coffee. So, congrats on that.

    I’ve always wanted to throw in a random picture of a helicopter exploding or Sharlto Copley in a state of undress…just to see if anyone else is paying attention.

  15. also, we seem to have lost the ability to connect the dots…if we ever had it to begin with. continue…

  16. why am I here in a handbasket? Says:

    a toddler can find gay porn on the internet.
    and shutty shut shut on the bullets. I love them.

  17. I’m not in the military, but I’m sure I sat in that meeting. I just go into a meeting coma (I pretend to be awake and nod my head every three slides). I’m usually thinking about sex, food, sex, food, shopping, food, blogging, sex again until I get an orgasmic thought.

  18. PowerPoints are reminiscent of the mind-numbing slide projector snoozers my teachers subjected me to in the ’70s.

  19. Yeah quickest way for me to lose interest in whatever you’re saying… BY READING VERBATIM FROM THE SLIDE. I can read too! I SWEAR!

  20. I love the epic verbal sodomization! The sales guy is reading bullet points off something a tech wrote when BAM, your own mild mannered tech pipes up and rapes him in public. Just thinking about it makes me smile. It’s these little things, like leaving the bagel store just before your boss calls you to pick something up for him (ooh, sorry), that take some of the sting out of the hell of my job.

  21. Death by PowerPoint is a common occurrence. Won’t you please help by giving a small donation – wood, matches, newspaper, anything flammable, really? Only you can start conference room fires.

  22. If it wasn’t for PowerPoint, my college professors’ brains would have exploded. What’s a chalkboard? Books? They don’t exist anymore.

    • I know. It’s worked down to high schools too.

      • savorthefolly Says:

        it’s actually worked it’s way down to elementary schools. I shit you not, my daughter had to give a powerpoint presentation in 1ST GRADE. Granted it was only 4 or 5 slides but she still…

        In the long run I think it’s great that they’re getting them started so early on public speaking (she had to stand in front of the class to give the presentation) but I was still shocked to see it so early.

  23. whiteladyinthehood Says:

    Yep – I agree with Nora – the line about the vegetable tray was to die for funny…and did you call someone an assclown?

  24. OMFG … do not even get me started! Ooops, too late. 😛 Earlier this year I was averaging 5 meetings a day. Yes, I said a day. Fortunately most of them were informal, the sit-around-a-conference-table sort, but we do have our big reviews. I’m lucky enough to be able to skip most of those, but when I do have to sit in the audience I want to smack the shit out of the pinhead asswipes that read the slides verbatim … “Hey asshole, I can fucking read, how’s about you learn to present?”. Gaah!

    I’m also lucky enough to not have to do the presenting myself the majority of the time. But when I do have to, it’s always at a big review. And management always wants to have 3 pre-meetings … a meeting to discuss what the “big” meeting will cover; a review of the draft charts; and a dry run … usually that one is 1 or 2 weeks before the “big day”. The last one I got stuck presenting at I ended up presenting for 3 hours … out of an 8 hour meeting.

    Never fear though … I NEVER read off my charts. They are always a summary of what I intend to say and since I make them up myself I at least have some control over what’s in them. I do know my material and end up fielding a number of questions (the downside to being somewhat specialized and a lead) in addition to covering the material I have to present. My biggest problem is that most of my stuff ends up at the end of these review meetings … well after the entire audience is annoyed beyond belief from having to sit through the pinhead asswipe presentations earlier in the meeting. It’s enough to drive one postal.

  25. I have a very Pavlovian response to PowerPoint presentations- zzzzzzzzzzzz. No amount of caffeine will prevent this. I have had to get up and stand at the back of the room countless times on Reserve weekends because some dipshit wanted to look “official” with a PPP, instead of just handing out a paper and telling us what we needed to know, or using hand puppets, or something at least a little innovative/interesting. By the way, it is so refreshing to read your uncensored rants. Having been out of the military for several years, I’ve found that I miss all of the colorful language and phraseology that offends some civilians. Not that I don’t use it, mind you- it’s just that I miss hearing it. 😛

  26. Ah yes. Very familiar with this scenario. I got to experience the joy when I worked as a draftsman/engineer for a DoD contractor who makes ordinance.
    I made stacks of drawings of every angle of every building and every piece of tooling in the building. This went on for a couple of years, weekly power-points were the norm. We were planning new production, and I was mostly a professional meeting attendee. There were also weekly safety, diversity, and security power-point meetings. Sheesh.

    Of course, in the end, nothing new was ever produced. It took me a while to realize and accept the fact that the whole thing was just another scam to soak up some of the billions that are freely given to the chosen few companies. We never produced one bomb, but we spent millions planning to, then killed the job and shifted the whole illusion of progress to another facility owned by the same company.

  27. Ah, powerpoint – the bane of my life 😦

    It can be an excellent tool if used correctly – sadly, most often it is not !

    There is nothing so irritating as sitting through a powerpoint presentation when the speaker insists in reading out verbatim the bullet points on the slides – like we can’t do that ourselves 🙄

    If the target audience is a ‘remote’ one, then a comprehensive powerpoint presentation is ideal.

    If the speaker is addressing a ‘live’ audience, however, then the focus should be on the speaker and his or her direct communication with the audience – using a less comprehensive powerpoint presentation to summarise/augment the speaker’s argument.

    Too often, however, I have had to sit through a presentation where the speaker has forgotten it is his/her task to communicate with the audience and has instead just presented powerpoint slide after slide and read them out to me like I am blind 🙄

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