And You Thought the Tea Party Was Wacky?

Jul 06 2011 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Over the weekend, I toured the Eisenhower Museum and Library in Abilene, KS. Particularly interesting was the video of Ike's farewell address that warned us of the dangers of the military industrial complex:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Can you imagine any of the current crop of GOP candidates saying such a thing? We also never learned what Ike thought about evolution, yet the Republicans let him lead their party for two terms. The museum also omitted Kay Summersby while providing several exhibits on Mamie's fashion sense.

As we in the US gear up for an election only 488 days away, it can be educational to examine the process of leader selection in other countries. Indeed, other places on the globe have less expensive, more civilized campaigns that we in the US could seek to emulate. The Swiss may have jumped the shark, though, with the birth of the AntiPowerPoint Party. You read that correctly- this political party is dedicated to the elimination of (most) presentation software. They estimate that presentation software costs the European economy tons each year, although many of the numbers appear to be pulled out of thin air via someone's colon:

The situation in Switzerland:

In Switzerland there are 4.1 million employees (students and pupils should also be counted). Let's make the conservative assumption that 11 % of them have to assist to PowerPoint* presentations on a regular basis. In that context we will assume that the presentations take place twice a week on average and have an average number of 10 participants (in big companies and institutions like ABB, Novartis, the Army, and universities… . The average number of participants may be umpteen times higher). Let us further assume that not all but only 85 percent of the participants find that the presentations are killing motivation. We will then consider the Swiss average hourly rate of 56.30 CHF. These assumptions will give us an annual monetary destruction of

2.1 billion Swiss Francs!

Click to buy or learn more

Anyone in the world can join the APPP for free, and the web site has been translated into a number of languages. They would love for you to buy their book, The PowerPoint Fallacy. So if we don't use PowerPoint or its cousins, how do we communicate stuff to groups? Matthias Poehm, the party's founder, recommends the humble flip chart.

It can be proven that EACH slide containing text, a diagram or a schematic illustration has a drastically reduced effect compared to a real human creating something on a flip-chart. This is due to the fact that the effect of an illustration is not generated by the result but by THE ACT OF CREATING the result. It is the latter that provides the effect and not the result itself. That is the reason why PowerPoint* can not work.

I'm trying to imagine 10 minute abstract talks with folks drawing each graph on a flip chart...

The best part of the site provides examples of bad slides. No, not merely bad; supremely horrible slides. Below is an example:

Click to enlarge


This slide from the US army gave a clearly laid out representation of the influence of various factors on the war in Afghanistan. General McChrystal, to whom the slide was presented, commented as follows: “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war”

As far as I can tell the APPP promotes no specific candidates for office, merely the elimination or reduction of presentation software.

I wonder how much stock this dude has in flip charts and Sharpies?

4 responses so far

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    FWIW, when I was visiting customers as the on-hand tech expert, I always asked the people I was visiting whether they wanted to see slides or take their chances with me and a whiteboard.

    Never once did anyone prefer slides, and on several occasions I had very positive feedback on the clarity and focus of the presentations. Perhaps PP [1] is a matter of brining everyone down to a consistent mediocrity instead of taking a chance on those who are capable of doing even worse.

    [1] Could the acronym suggest a subconscious bias to you?

    • WhizBANG! says:

      There are times when you just need to show data, like a platform talk at a meeting. I don't want to see the investigator's artistic rendition of the data, but a graph drawn to a clear scale. Lists of bullet points with the presenter pointing to each word as it is spoken? Please make it stop. Now.

      The problem happens when something simple, like a short meeting agenda, results in a series of slides rather than a single list of items.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Having grown up with chalkboards and mimeographs, I may be baby-ducking.

    That acknowledged, I'm fine with graphs, charts, and drawings prepared ahead -- it saves meeting time. On the other hand, the talking points always come across as discussion points when either delivered without visual emphasis or presented by hand drawing.

    I was quite sorry when my committee could no longer justify overhead projectors for meetings. Some of the best material ever presented was totally ad hoc synthesis or critique put together on the spot by an audience member with transparencies and pens.

  • Moopheus says:

    Perhaps the APP makes up its numbers, but its goal is worthy. PP is a soul-deadening horror of Lovecraftian proportions, a tool of bureaucrats in their endless drive to eliminate thought and substance. Then they have the gall to add insult to injury by giving you a binder with printouts of all the badly-designed content-free slides you were just barely able to stay awake through.

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