Carolyn and the Ghastly PowerPoint

Last week, my supervisor asked me to research and put together my thoughts on two subjects…by Friday…in PowerPoint.

I hate PowerPoint. No, I loathe PowerPoint. For years, toiling away in the bowels of magazine land, I had to endure PowerPoint presentations droning on and on about market share and strategic opportunities when I just wanted to know what the d**n product I was going to review or not was and what it did.

And now here I was, being asked to take perfectly good information and pervert it into PowerPoint. To make things worse, when I asked for theĀ  company logo/style to use for my presentation, I received what I can only describe as the Ghastly PowerPoint. I could only bear to see it for about 30 seconds at a time before I had to close it, and sit there quivering and shaking in horror.

I have tried hard to erase it from my brain, but I cannot, for the life of me, erase one image. It is of a slide with six narrow columns, with about 53 bullet points of useless information, so dense it had to be shrunk down to six point type. Oh, god, and I was supposed to produce something like this?!

In terror, I turned to Peter, who witnessed a portion of the Ghastly PowerPoint and laughed. “You don’t have to do that. In fact, you shouldn’t,” he said. He reminded me of the Don McMillan show we’d seen a few years ago.

And thus, with Peter often at my side for advice and moral support, I put together my presentations. It’s not that PowerPoint is perverse. It’s that it’s been perverted.

I had the responsibility to respect the medium in a way it rarely is. I snipped and condensed until each slide had less than ten words, often less. I refused to use text less than 24 points in size, and I used lots of pictures. Pictures that could make a point a whole lot better than a whole lot of words on the screen, read aloud as if the presentation were a storybook and the audience a bunch of illiterate preschoolers in business suits.

But the Ghastly PowerPoint still haunted me. I woke up in terror at 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, afraid that my supervisor would see the presentations and say, “Yeah, Carolyn, these are great, but I’d like to get some more detail, like all the irrelevant minutae you left out, preferably in the form of a really dense table in six point type. Oh, and you should use more enterprise-appropriate vocabulary like “leverage,””strategize,” and “TPS report.” And please put everything into passive voice. Pointy-Haired Bosses hate direct imperatives; it makes them think they should do something and they’d have to take responsibility for it. They hate that.”

I had to calm myself by reminding myself that I’ve actually met my supervisor and he’s intelligent and not at all like Lumbergh. But then, he had almost certainly been subjected to the Ghastly PowerPoint (and more PowerPoint just like it) for a length of time far longer than I was capable of. And what could that do to a perfectly decent man? It was the sort of thing that could drive normal people to drop words like “fundamentalize” into their everyday conversation, and far worse,

Finally, on Friday, exhausted and frazzled, I gave my presentations. They went over well. I can’t disclose the content of the presentations, but I’m not giving away any corporate secrets when I tell you that among them, the two presentations included the number of fart apps on the iPhone, a Keith anecdote, a Monty Python reference, and a Steve-Jobs-like zone out on a particularly awesome fact.

I’d declare victory, but I’m not sure I can. PowerPoint did not suck away my soul and send it circling the drain of corporate despair. However, I found out a Pointy-Haired Boss had plans for me that would do just the same. I objected, of course.

And then I left for a week, to spend time on a movie set in Albuquerque. Que sera, sera.

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