I’m a writer not a graphic designer. This is the thought that crosses my mind every time I look at an empty PowerPoint slide that stares back at me mockingly with its blank slate.
I feel it is saying: “Just try to write a full sentence,” knowing that should I bring it back to my groupmates they would tear into that poor sentence like ravenous vultures, leaving it shredded and hacked into something that barely resembles a grammatically correct phrase.
The transition to communicating in bullet points, charts and graphs has been the hardest thing for me in business school. I come from a world that prizes words, vocabulary, language applied to pictures and photographs and videos. I feel like a Luddite, decrying the extinction of the English language. And in some ways I feel that’s what business school asks us to do.
Yes, we have to write papers, but most of our work is done on PowerPoint. My Global Consulting Project group requested that I put all my notes and do all my work directly on this foreign format when we started in an attempt to quell my verbosity.
I grudgingly complied, but I question the argument.
I’m told that executives just don’t have time to read. They flip through these “slides” the young analysts labour over, looking for action words and quick explanations. Maybe that’s true, but I have to question anyone in the C-suite who thinks that to know something well requires flipping through a few graphs and bullet points.
If I ever become a chief executive, you can bet my analysts will be walking around with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
But for now, I’m just a lowly MBA, who’s spent the past hour trying to make a circle that will fit around her bullet point. It’s mind-bending stuff I tell you!
However, if you fear that B-school will suck the creativity out of you, I can attest that I have friends who manage to be creative and work within the confines of a PowerPoint slide. However, my favourite assignment so far has involved leaving the PowerPoint behind all together.
It’s a video made for a class on climate change by some friends and which won a class prize for best video. The outtakes at the beginning are meant to be there as is the Austin Powers-esque look of the anchor.
Check it out if you have a chance because: A) it’s good; B) it’s a reminder that you too can communicate without a standard deck of 12 slides.