Microsoft PowerPoint: Is a message's form becoming more important than its meaning?

Less-successful organizations usually focus more on internal issues. Executive and leadership coach John M McKee says that the organization's communication style is often the key to solving this problem.


A client works at one of the largest gaming companies in the world. He tells me that it seems there's never enough time to get everything done. He knows his priorities, but he feels ineffective.

Compare that comment with one from another client who recently joined a successful start-up company. She told me that she couldn't believe how much "extra" time she has left at the end of each business day.  After 12 years working for a large corporation, she worried that "life here is too good. Am I missing something?"

In my opinion, the key reason for their feelings is how these organizations communicate internally.

One of the biggest time frustrations for many corporate managers is how long it takes to get things moving. The first client says he recently spent about 80 percent of his time creating and then reviewing PowerPoint presentations for his boss.

He's not alone of course. Wherever I go, most larger organization use presentations, or slides, to communicate internally. One report I came across said that Microsoft estimated that there are over 30 million PowerPoint presentations made every day. The writer figures that the average presentation can take up to 10 hours to create. Based on my experience, in both examples, the numbers used don't seem farfetched.

Although most organizations today are in a more competitive environment than they've faced at any time in the past, when it comes to time management issues they're holding on to a communication approach that is neither efficient nor effective. I believe many internal "presentations" are more often about style than substance. ("Sarah, I think that when you show this to the boss, you should put a box around the numbers so they stand out against the red background you're using...Hmm, have you tried this slide with a blue background? I really liked how Gary's slides looked in the last meeting...")

In the above case of my client from the gaming business, in each presentation he was talking to just one person, the same one. (!)

The boss had asked him to explain his proposed new business strategy. He specifically wanted to see it created in PowerPoint. They made progress in the meeting, but the boss asked for changes and modifications. He requested another meeting the next day — again using PowerPoint. The same thing happened twice more during the week. Instead of one guy talking to another over coffee to figure out what was needed and get going, they had something like a two-person conference that took place in a large, dimly lit meeting room.

Four "presentations" were required to get approval to move ahead to the next stage!

This is, simply, a waste of a company's resources. From my perspective, it was also clear evidence of why this organization is going down the tubes while their key competitor gains share and market value.

The best companies don't waste much. Especially when it comes to internal communications. When planning meetings, I suggest you use this rule of thumb:

More time spent in meetings presenting to yourselves equals

  • Less time in the marketplace
  • Less time talking to your customers
  • Less time creating solutions, better products, or systems
Management consultant and author Tom Peters said it best, "The most complex problem can be reduced to a single page if you bust a gut. Demand that of yourself."

Once you've put together that one-pager, talk it over with all those who may be affected. When everyone in the meeting (I don't care if it's two people or 22) is committed to success, they'll raise issues, find problems, and develop solutions. If not, perhaps another meeting is required. But the cost involved to have that second meeting is far less than it would be if PowerPoint were required.

And, keeping written materials to a minimum is more "human": When we talk to each other, we learn how to work together more effectively. On the other hand, when we "present" to each other, we often lose the successful interaction that should occur when multiple minds are focused on an issue.

My client in the start-up has found this to be a truth. She says they get things done while at the same time they save a lot of money because they're more effective at using time.

I think most small organizations know this is a true competitive advantage. The large ones would be smart to follow their lead.

Use your extra time wisely.....


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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