As I've previously pointed out, Steve Jobs hated PowerPoint, and many top CEOs (including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban) won't even sit through a traditional presentation, if they can help it.
However, as many readers have pointed out, there are plenty of presentations inside the companies that these CEOs run. Why the inconsistency? Why don't these CEOs simply ban presentations altogether?
Indeed, considering that most people "hate PowerPoints" (i.e., presentations), you'd think that such a move would prove quite popular. But few if any companies ban presentations completely. What gives?
PowerPoint (and its clones and alternatives) continues to be a huge part of our corporate culture because presentations, when compared with finished documents, provide three huge advantages to the presenter at the expense of the audience. Specifically:
1. Presentations take less time and effort to create.
Writing a coherent document or speech requires starting with an outline, followed by a relatively long period of word-crafting and, in the case of a speech, rehearsal. With a presentation, you're basically done once you've created the outline. You don't have to do the hard part of actually writing anything because, even if you practice the presentation, you're essentially winging it.
2. Presentations can be changed on the fly.
Once you've written and distributed a formal document, you've put a stake in the ground. Readers will gauge your competence, intelligence, and allegiances on the basis of what you've written. With a presentation, though, you can gauge the attitude of your audience and make midcourse corrections either by saying something different or skipping over slides.
3. Presentations require virtually no writing skill.
Formal documents, ideally, must be grammatically correct, readable, and tightly written, which requires writing skills that can only be developed through long practice. Presentations, however, needn't even contain complete sentences. In fact, complete sentences in presentations tend to distract, because the audience reads them rather than listening to the presenter.
However, from the perspective of the audience, presentations have huge disadvantages compared with formal documents. Specifically:
1. Presentations proceed at a snail's pace.
A normal human can read and understand a formal document of three pages in as many minutes. That same information provided as a presentation might require as much as an hour, unless the presenter speaks like an auctioneer. And even then it would it take 15 minutes.
2. Presentations contain half-baked ideas.
Outlines are, by definition, unfinished thoughts. The process of putting ideas into formal sentences and paragraphs hones those ideas, which is why people will pay money for business books but not presentations.
3. Presentations permit informational "Jell-O."
There's an old saying in business: "You can't pin Jell-O to the wall." Because presenters can customize on the fly, they can weasel out of saying anything that could get them into trouble.
4. Presentations encourage cabalistic diagrams.
Presenters tend to arrange their outlines into graphically connected boxes to show how those elements are related. Such diagrams are seldom useful and frequently impenetrable.
5. Presentations can't be easily reviewed.
Because presentations aren't complete without the words that the presenter says to the audience, the only way to review a presentation is to listen to it. Yes, you can play a recording of the presentation at 2x or 4x, but that's still much slower than scanning a document.
As you can see, the advantages of PowerPoint are all to the presenter, while the disadvantages are all to the audience.
That's why when people say "I hate PowerPoint" they're talking about being subjected to other people's presentations. You never hear people say "I hate creating presentations." Why would they? Presentations are a good deal ... for the presenter.
CEOs ban PowerPoint (i.e., presentations) because, as "big bosses," they can demand that their underlings do the extra work required to create formal documents, which the CEOs can skim with the expectation that they're spending their valuable time on finished ideas rather than Jell-O-ish outlines.
Inside those companies, however, there's less of a power differential, so workers essentially agree to be tortured by their co-workers' presentations, as long as they're allowed to torture everyone else in turn.