PowerPoint is a productivity toilet because:
- Listening to a presentation takes ten times longer than reading a brief document containing the same information.
- Audiences remember less when they're simultaneously confronted with two differing versions of the same information.
- It encourages horrible communication techniques like bullet lists, striptease reveals, complex diagrams, cut-rate animation and cheesy stock photos.
Zoom drains your energy more than regular meetings because, as Clemson University's expert on teamwork effectiveness Marissa Shuffler points out:
"When you're on a video conference, you know everybody's looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful."
PowerPoint plus Zoom multiplies those problems, creating a stinking toxic stew of office worker misery.
Look, even before coronavirus, billions of hours every year were wasted on PowerPoint presentations. (Note: I use "PowerPoint" as a generic term; its clones are equally heinous.)
There was, however, one tiny "escape clause" for PowerPoint-weary workers: if a meeting were large enough, you could hide in the back of the room and get some real work done while pretending to take notes.That worked because in a conference room, the presenter naturally pays more attention to the attendees sitting nearby rather than those sitting farther away, whose faces due to perspective seem smaller and thus less readable.
Zoom removes that tiny "escape clause." A PowerPoint presenter in Zoom sees every attendee's face in the same size in a closeup view. Because everyone is now in a virtual front row, the presenter can easily tell who's paying attention. To make matters worse, you're also visible to everyone else, so we all by default end up policing each other's meeting behavior.
There are no doubt narcissists in the business world who think this is a good thing, but anybody who gives a crap about their coworkers realizes that it's grossly unfair and obnoxious to ask Zoom attendees to sit through a PowerPoint.
That's especially true because there is a simple alternative, that many of the world's most powerful CEOs are using: a briefing document. Rather than have everyone slog through a presentation, you start the meeting with everyone reading a short (one or two page) document providing the information that needs to be discussed at that meeting.
As a result, meetings are far shorter, more likely to reach consensus, and less likely to roll down rat-holes. That's even more true in a remote work environment, where the goal should be to severely limit the time that workers need to spend on Zoom.
So, please, if you've got the authority make the call, ban presentations from your Zoom meetings and use briefing documents instead. To get you started, here's a simple template.