How to Escape the PowerPoint Prison

Presentations don’t have to provoke despair

3 min read
opening illustration for Technically Speaking department page.
Illustration: Edmon de Haro
We have met the Devil of Information Overload and his impish underlings, the computer virus, the busy signal, the dead link, and the PowerPoint presentation.

Pity poor PowerPoint. Has there ever been a piece of software that elicited such negative feelings? Meeting goers have long been bored senseless by slides that were transition-heavy and content-light, living in fear of both ant fonts (impossible-to-read small type used by someone trying to cram as much text on a slide as possible) and the triple delivery (having the same text displayed onscreen, on a handout, and spoken aloud). Business leaders have raged against the productivity suck of employees spending hours making trivial tweaks of their presentations. Per Walter Isaacson in his book Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, 2011), one of the first things Jobs did on his return to Apple was prohibit PowerPoints. “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint,” Jobs said. People who did not know what they were talking about were said to have knowledge that is only PowerPoint deep [PDF]. The U.S. military became top-heavy with PowerPoint Rangers: military officers who excel at creating presentations.

PowerPoint carried on, of course, but a change is in the wind. The past few years have seen a welcome flowering of innovative ways to present information.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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