Skip to content

Lawyers: Be Aware – PowerPoint Can Kill

If you attend a presentation given by someone from Rocket Matter, you’ll notice we’re not keen on traditional PowerPoint-style presentations. Rather, we subscribe to the “Presentation Zen” style of slide communication popularized by Garr Reynolds.

Instead of killing the audience with bullet points, we believe in strong visual composition and communication to tell the story. Granted, it makes presenting a whole lot trickier when you can’t read your slides, but your listeners will thank you.

Last night I ran into a graphic designer who informed me about a couple of genuine PowerPoint disasters where the medium muddles the message.

In one instance, Nasa blamed the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, in part, due to critical information buried in a horrendous PowerPoint presentation. As chronicled by Edward Tufte, The Columbia Accident Investigation Board itself wrote:

The presentation included the Crater analysis, which they reported as incomplete and uncertain. However, the Mission Evaluation Room manager perceived the Boeing analysis as rigorous and quantitative. The choice of headings, arrangement of information, and size of bullets on the key chart served to highlight what management already believed. The uncertainties and assumptions that signaled danger dropped out of the information chain…

In another instance, as The New York Times reports in We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint, the U.S. military’s culture of PowerPoint for communicating information muddles the mission in Afghanistan:

Commanders say that behind all the PowerPoint jokes are serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making.

Oy. Time to rethink how you’re putting slides together. As an example of the direction we’ve taken in some of our presentations, witness the below slides from one of our programs, Blogs, LinkedIn, and Twitter for Lawyers.