The PowerPoint Non-Proliferation Treaty - Sign Up!


I have a theory that there's a part of everyone's brain that is only used when viewing PowerPoint slides. It's an area that has become highly specialised to scan through large amounts of seemingly disconnected information hidden on a variety of colourful backgrounds in mismatched fonts in search of meaning and enlightenment. This also makes it one of the most overworked yet disappointed areas within most people's brains. As such, I hereby name it the prefrontal disappointus (trademark pending approval).

So I admit it - I sat down not 10 minutes ago and figured out that I've seen about 48,000 PowerPoint slides in the last decade... and I'm thinking that's a conservative estimate. These slides haven't just been in projected presentations either. People now seem to use PowerPoint to do absolutely everything, from proposals to leaflets to menus to posters. If Darwin were alive today, he'd be writing about the impending extinction of Word in preference for PowerPoint, which has somehow evolved beyond anyone's intentions or expectations (must be the software equivalent of having a better beak).

On a concerning note, I've been experiencing gradually intensifying negative symptoms during PowerPoint presentations. What started as a small tic has now evolved into involuntary coughing, restless leg syndrome, situational anxiety and unpredictable aggression. The rate of intensification over the past year suggests to me that I have about 2,000 PowerPoint slides left before my head figuratively (and perhaps literally) explodes. I don't know if 50,000 slides is everyone's limit, but I imagine even now someone is putting together a PowerPoint presentation to try to figure it out.

All of this means I need to be more selective in what PowerPoint slide presentations I'm prepared to sit through in order to pace myself over what will hopefully be a long and fruitful life as a management consultant. Clearly, particularly given my chosen profession, that involves putting some strategies in place. So be warned - the next SWOT analysis I'm forced to sit through on PowerPoint may lead to my own self-styled SWAT across the back of the presenter's head. The same goes for not setting a projector up properly (here's a handy hint - the words shouldn't look like the writing at the start of Star Wars). Sure, you might think it's harsh, but I'd argue that my son's second grade teacher should have seen it coming that fateful primary school information evening (your Honour).

When did we lose the ability to communicate to each other like normal people and start hiding behind overly bright technicolor garbled nothingness? Surely as a species we can do better than the corporate equivalent of Uncle Bert's 1975 slide night ("I've got one more set of slides to go kids"). In those days slide projectors would often spontaneously catch on fire, destroying the slides in the process and thereby saving potentially thousands of hours of pain for others. Unfortunately PowerPoint is less inclined to do this... although, if you poured some methylated spirits into the laptop keyboard... hmmmm....

Now, where was I... oh yes - the PowerPoint Non-Proliferation Treaty. As leaders won't you please join me in pledging to try to avoid death by PowerPoint. To not idly standby while others click on "New Slide". To refuse to incorporate transitions and animations (although that one that made the typewriter noise as the letters flew onto the screen one by one was pretty good). To at least try to convey your ideas in a way that engages with people and doesn't depend on the software evolutionary equivalent of the cockroach. We can do better. Indeed, we must do better. So sign up, spread the word and pass this on. We may yet live in a world free of PowerPoint. Now if you'll excuse me - I just need to format this blog up into some PowerPoint slides...