Death… By Powerpoint!

Ready for another exciting presentation?

We’ve all sat through them.  Some of us are even responsible for perpetuating them.  Powerpoint-fests are a staple of modern business and it is likely that we are stuck with them until the advent of a holographic surround sound/surrond animation method of imparting knowledge to a room full of workshop participants is developed.

This morning, en-route to Louisville, KY for a week that will end with what else, a big powerpoint presentation, I ducked into the President’s Club at Houston Bush Airport and relieved said establishment of a stale bagel and a copy of today’s Financial Times (US edition).  Therein, I was pleased to find an article written by my favorite management columnist, Lucy Kellaway, on the pitfalls of Powerpoint presentations.  You can read her article in it’s entirety here, but to summarize Ms. Kellaway’s thoughts, she points out that the economic impact of people sitting through powerpointfests is over one hundred million Euros per year.  The impact on the mental agility of those forced to sit through bad powerpoint presentations is not however calculable but she implies that attending such presentations may leave attendees unable to work as effectively as they might otherwise be able to.  Her assertion that powerpoint allows speakers with below average speechmaking ability to be more confident about their work is right on the money and is perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of reliance on the tool.

Ms. Kellaway also states “Worse, it lowers the quality of discussion and leads to bad decisions.  PowerPoint performs the miracle of making things simultaneously too simple and  too complicated. It reduces subtle ideas to bullet points, while it encourages  you to pad out a presentation with irrelevant data because cutting and pasting is far too easy”.

How are Ms. Kellaway’s observations then, relevant to the goings on in most hospitals and health-systems?  Health-system managers are constantly juggling meetings and presentations that are necessary to allow them to make sound clinical, operational and financial decisions.  The amount of time devoted to meetings in health-systems simply staggering and it is not unusual for managers to be in some type of meeting or presentation for half the workday or longer.   The sheer number of meetings make time a valuable commodity and one that is even scarcer when one attempts to schedule the right players for the right meetings.  Try scheduling a meeting to discuss say, adverse drug reactions in post-surgical patients.  To start with, to get the correct players at the table (notably anesthesiologists and surgeons), one is likely looking at scheduling a meeting at 6:00AM.  Next, ensuring that information is presented in a meaningful manner is also challenging in the health-system environment.  Disparate clinical systems often result in the need to collect manual metrics and manually manipulate them.  Presenting them in an easy to read and interpret format can result in exactly the scenario Ms. Kellaway points out, and any decisions made at a suboptimal time based on such data may not always be the best decisions for the organization or it’s patients.

Incidentally, if you liked the article from the Financial Times, you might be interested in hearing some of Ms. Kellaway’s podcasts, which are rather entertaining and often describe aspects of workplace culture prevalent in most US hospitals frighteningly accurately.


No TweetBacks yet. (Be the first to Tweet this post)

Leave a Reply