Monday, July 13, 2009

PowerPoint in the Pentagon

A recent article in the Armed Forces Journal (full article at lists many problems with the way PowerPoint is used in the US Armed Forces. They cite issues such as too much text on the slides, too much time spent creating the slides and their position that PowerPoint is not a good decision support tool in briefings. I’ve never sat through a Pentagon briefing presentation, but I’ve helped many presenters who have to help executives or customers make decisions after a presentation. Here are some thoughts on making these types of presentations better with PowerPoint.

If you need a lot of text as reference material after the meeting, create a separate handout in Word or use the hidden slide technique to create a PowerPoint file that contains all the text but doesn’t have you presenting a “wall of text”. This allows one file to remain the single vehicle for communication without boring the audience with text slides.

If you need to record thoughts or decisions during a meeting, hyperlink out to a Word document where the group can record their discussion in a document that is agreed to in a group and easily distributed after the meeting. I think many organizations could cut down on the length of meeting minutes or flip charts if they adopted this technique.

Increase your visual inventory by seeing what visuals are being used to communicate different ideas. You can view thirty slide makeover videos for free on my YouTube channel at and there are over twenty specific visuals explained in my book The Visual Slide Revolution. Look outside your own field to see how others are using visuals to communicate ideas.

I don’t agree with the conclusion that the writer makes that PowerPoint is only useful for informative presentations. I think it can be a good tool to support decisions, if used in the right way. Maybe some of the people creating the briefs just need a little training on how to make their slides and presentations more effective and things would improve.


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