Tips How Not To Get Carried Away With PowerPoint

Sunday, September 15, 2013, 1:00 AM | Leave Comment

It seems that PowerPoint, the Microsoft software for presentation, has become an obsession with some. Not only businesses use it heavily but the U.S. Armed Forces have seemingly become obsessed as well. To use PowerPoint effectively, you need to follow methodology for a good and structured design.

Some slides that I have seen in businesses are each too crowded with information. The British had a rule at one time: Divide and Conquer. They had come up with that strategy at the beginning of their rise to power over half of the world. And they were extremely successful at that.

In design, especially of software, one should follow the divide and conquer strategy as well. PowerPoint are best viewed and understood when each slide is minimally crowded. The less on a page, whether graphics or text, the better the audience would understand and enjoy it.

Case in point: The U.S. Military PowerPoint

Better way of planning and plotting

I can’t read and make out the smaller writing on this huge slide, but from the outset, I can tell that it could be divided into one top slide consisting of all the entities written in block letters that are so obviously visible and link them together according to their individual functions.

Each such entity cannot survive by itself. They are not meant to be. They must support each other. You can have exactly the same PowerPoint but only the top highlighted functions with two-way communication links as so <==>. I counted 13 such functions – the big ones.

Then each entity or function can have separate slides so that they can be explained and discussed in the top-level meetings, of course with the two-way communication links intact each step of the way. And then you can sub-divide further if the need arises.

New York Times online reports:

No wonder when Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, it looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

Projects with interconnected political and economic forces

Too many rigid bullet points can never show other intricacies of a situation. PowerPoint has an inherent tendency of hindering your critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Be sensitive to the political and financial impact of a project.

In a Nutshell
Use PowerPoint to convey your message in a clear and concise manner. Don’t confuse the hell out of your audience.

Stay away from spaghetti design unless you mean to eat it. In software design especially, start your attack on the design in terms of divide and conquer. It’s extremely fruitful for maintaining it as well.

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