PowerPoint is a clear and present reflection of our interior state, as individuals and as a culture. We might not like what we see, but we do have the choice either to deny it or do something about it. For example, one of the consistent complaints about PowerPoint today is that it makes audiences feel isolated and alienated. In 2001, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam wrote the acclaimed book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, in which he argues that civil society is at risk as people are becoming more disconnected from one another.
Are the disconnecting dynamics of our broader culture expressing themselves through PowerPoint? They are if we design PowerPoint alone, sitting in a cubicle, churning out bullet point after point. If we design PowerPoint alone, no wonder our audiences also feel alone. So if we want to transform our external results, we have to transform our internal approach. Here’s a tip:
Tip: Be sociable from the start. Communication always happens between people, so it’s a myth to think that you’re ever alone. Don’t wait until you’re done with your PowerPoint to ask for feedback from your colleagues. Call a short meeting to project your rough draft on a screen and tap into the collective smarts of your team. The great value here is not just a better PowerPoint – you’ve actually improved your relationship with other people because you’ve asked them for their opinion, and probably have gotten their buy-in.
If you expect your PowerPoint to be engaging, you have to engage other people from the very beginning of your design process. The more engaging your internal process, the more engaging your external result.