This is Why I Left Corporate America

Once I entered management-type jobs in corporate America, my life was dominated by making powerpoint charts.  That made some sense - I was a staff planner, and that's what they do.  Ten years later I was Senior VP of Marketing for the $23 billion commercial aerospace division of a Fortune 50 company, and I was still spending a huge portion of my time making powerpoint slides.

I am sure other people have lots of sophisticated life goals for themselves, but two of my biggest goals in leaving large corporations were:

  • Never touch powerpoint again
  • Never wear a tie again

I have been succesful 100% on #2.  Powerpoint is still a useful tool, so I not totally fulfilled goal #1, but my use is scaled way back, to about 4 presentations in 6 years  (and one of these was for my climate work, not my real job).

It turns out the military has the same problem.


  1. Evil Red Scandi:

    The problem isn't so much PowerPoint, as it is the wanton abuse of it by people designing presentations. That being said, I found it extremely amusing in this book where it's used to torture a prisoner (the author has immense and not yet depleted reserves of snark).

  2. Larry Sheldon:

    Hold on to your Carousel trays, boys, the 35mm slide will rise again.

    I preferred Ektachrome anyway.

    Actually, I like a chalk-board (black board preferred, green or whiteboard-and-marker accepted), or easel and paper pad in a pinch.

    That and knowing my subject allows me to adjust to the crowd.

  3. Methinks:

    Your former corporate tie will soon be replaced by a government noose.

  4. Dan:

    I came within a few inches of a job in a very senior military office, one for which I am not remotely qualified, because the interviewer and I came to swift and sure agreement on exactly how PowerPoint presentations should be organized. (Alas, the 2-star admiral who interviewed me the next morning was less impressed with my sleep-deprived incoherence...)

    On the bright side, I didn't have to move to DC!

  5. Kevin Dick:

    A friend once noted to me that Army officers sometimes refer to themselves self-deprecatingly as "PowerPoint Rangers", as in, "The planning meeting was just me and a bunch of other PowerPoint Rangers."

  6. Doug:

    @Methinks: LOL! Brevity and that soul of wit thing.

  7. Shenpen:

    Would you blog more about it what it is like? Because I and perhaps many people have some darkly romantic ideas about what it must be like to be a VP at a big company, like, constant maneouvering for status and power against all the other VPs etc. etc. it sounds quite exciting. You make it sounds it is actually boring. Would you care to elaborate?

  8. ElamBend:

    I recently did a document review job for a legal services company. One of the clients was a large management consulting company (one of the big ones). I had to wade through gobs of power-point presentations, many with too much detail to be of use other than to obfuscate.

  9. DrTorch:

    This is no joke. As a consultant in the DC area, our company mainly did Power Point for gov't agencies, particularly DoD clients. One candidate I went after very hard looked like a "Power Point Ranger" and that was the main reason I wanted him.

    But, ERS is right. It's the abuse of Power Point, and the requisite to make every chart look pretty, that's the real problem.

    "Plans are nothing, planning is everything." If you use Power Point to enforce good planning, it's great. If it has to be aesthetically pleasing too, that's a big waste.

  10. Michael:

    Why sister was with Deloitte doing Power Point presentations. She and her department were let go as now people in India are doing Power Point presentations for Deloitte.

  11. Mesa Econoguy:

    It's getting worse.

  12. Craig:

    I just started a job at a government agency, and my orientation consisted of a week of nothing but watching Powerpoint presentations. Ugh.

  13. Dave:

    There is a professor, I believe at Yale, whose specialty is information display and who has inveighed for years against the inappropriate use of PowerPoint.

    Of course I can't remember his name now.

  14. Sol:

    @Evil Red Scandi: Funny, I don't remember PowerPoint torture in Jennifer Morgue -- but I don't think I'm ever going to forgot the PowerPoint presentation in that book which was actually an enemy assault (trying to avoid spoilers). That book is highly recommended, a brilliant combination of two parts James Bond, one part HP Lovecraft, and one part Dilbert.

  15. DrTorch:


    The professor is Edward(?) Tufte. I have been to his lectures.

  16. gn:

    That chart from the linked site reminds me of something I noticed about ppt slides: You get credit for putting words/acronyms/titles/arrows on slides even if you have no idea how it fits together. The viewer assumes you have thought through the details of "Tribal" issues if you put it in a bubble on the slide, when of course all you did was copy/paste the "Ethnic" bubble and changed the word inside to "Tribal". Illusion of analysis.

    Give me a well-writtin whitepaper before a meeting over a useless ppt deck during a meeting any day of the week.

  17. tomw:

    Power Point: the power to point at crap and not be called on it. Nice shiny boxes where "stuff" happens, but nobody has any details of how it will happen nor how much it will cost, and not a clue of the feasibility.
    Used to was, if it came out of a computer it was considered "word". Couldn't be wrong if it was computer generated...
    Today, Power Point has the same cachet, to its discredit. It is used as the bamboozler, to bury protests with that simple push of a remote mouse button or the call for "next"...
    Kind of like AGW, IPCC, and "Climate Change", all based on Power Point, using data from Dr Hansen, that no one will ever get to inspect, nor his "fudge" factors that skew his graphs. Power Point is evil.

  18. andrewdb:

    Edward Tufte. See here:

    He is a genius.

    One of his outstanding monographs is Visual and Statistical Thinking (he has another one devoted solely to PowerPoint). In VST he discusses the Challenger disaster and the Review Board analysis which found that powerpoint had reduced the analysis to the lowest common denominator that everyone could agree on, in a bullet point. Needless to say, Richard Feyneman (a panel member) was not amused.

  19. jeff:

    I give monthly updates to my company's management meeting, and I'm the only attendee that refuses to use powerpoint. I write up an outline of talking points, backed up by handouts of detailed data/charts if there are questions or discussion. I've found this elicits the best discussion and leads to actual decisions I can leave and implement.


  20. Elliot:

    Can't find it in Joel Splosky's software writing but there is a perfect description of PPoint out there that shows how it breaks up a subject without doing analysis and sums up while avoiding synthesis, and of course, looks good doing it. Any ideas out there?