I strongly disagree with the article James Cowan of Canadian Business magazine published today concluding that “PowerPoint is a terrible way to communicate anything important.” My study on PowerPoint usage is quoted and he uses a 12 word quote from me. By including me in this article, he gives the impression that I agree with the direction of the article, which is certainly not the case.
I expected better from Canada’s national business magazine. The article suggests that just by using a memo format instead of a PowerPoint presentation, that all the problems with communication in organizations will be solved. Not only is this grossly oversimplified, it is flat out wrong.
If someone wrote a rambling multi-page memo with spelling and grammatical errors and all the text in one paragraph, would most executives think this was good communication just because it was a memo? None of the executives I work with regularly would think that way. Any communications vehicle - memos, emails, PowerPoint presentations, and many more - can be used well or can be used poorly. It is not the vehicle that is the issue, it is how it is used.
Do too many corporate presenters deliver PowerPoint presentations that could be better? Sure. But the solution is to train them on how to create presentations that have a clear message, focused content, and effective visuals. That is what I have been doing for my clients for over 15 years.
Canadian Business could have chosen to provide a balanced perspective with suggestions on how corporate presenters could overcome some of the common problems with PowerPoint presentations. That would have been useful to their readers. Instead, they chose to take the route of creating a “click bait” headline and story that doesn’t provide their readers with a viable solution to a real issue.
I spoke with Mr. Cowan for over 20 minutes on the phone at his request. At the time he indicated that the story was examining the question of whether a presentation is always needed in a meeting. I gave a balanced view that suggested that a well thought through presentation could often help. I was surprised and disappointed when I saw the article today and he had included me in a manner that distorts my position on the usage of PowerPoint presentations.
Let me close by reiterating my position on this subject. I believe strongly that a PowerPoint presentation can be used to effectively communicate important information. I disagree with the position of the Canadian Business article and do not appreciate my name being used in a manner that suggests otherwise.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals and is NASBA registered to deliver CPE credit courses to CPAs.