Written by Judy D’Ammasso Tarbox, Ph.D.
How many PowerPoint presentations have you created over the past few years? Over the past decade? A quick check for me brings up over 2,000 presentations in the past 10 years. Factoring in some duplicates, the number is still over 1600. A quick check for one of my colleagues gives almost identical results. Given the number of “30 million PowerPoint presentations created per day (Khatri, 2015)” these stats seem about right. Although I will add that while the “30 million number” is in some refute (Bajaj., 2013), further examination asks how old is this ’30 million’ number? And is it actually higher in 2016? To me this begs the question: Why is this important?
And the answer?
Over the past almost 20 years since PowerPoint came into existence there have been numerous studies and articles written about its benefits and dangers. Does it enhance the message or detract? We have also looked at using PowerPoint for a variety of tasks besides slide presentations.
For example, I have worked with PowerPoint to create basic wireframes for web texts and have seen others do the same. I have taught business writing students over the years about the benefits of electronic portfolios and have worked with PowerPoint to help them create these. And most of us at one time or another have completed employee training in workplace safety, diversity, and various policy and procedures that was based on interactive PowerPoint slide shows. (In fact I have one of these in my email inbox right now that I must put on this week’s ‘To Do List’…).
However, it was my own quick, anecdotal check of the existing PowerPoints created by one of my colleagues and myself for meetings, conferences, and educational/informational purposes that convinced me there is a wealth of information falling through the cracks. These old PowerPoint presentations, wireframes, and basic digital texts represent an undiscovered resource that could be leveraged for a variety of purposes within an organization.
Example One – Missed Opportunity
About a year ago I was tasked with the job of creating a slide presentation on the specific topic of ‘federation’ of identity standards. Putting aside my ‘trekkie’ roots, I did all the normal research before attacking the piece. This included Interviews, reviewing current information given by the client in terms of slides and written material, and database research. What I discovered only recently is that there were two existing decks from a few years previous in the ‘archives’ of one of my colleagues on this very topic. These would have proved very useful if I had known about them at the time because the existing material could have been easily reworked and repurposed to help with the new presentation. They also provided an interesting history of the topic from the time these earlier slides were created to the present day. Clearly this was a missed opportunity.
Example Two – Accomplishment
Most recently I have accepted the task of preparing a short informational video for a corporate website. Again, as in the past, I will engage in standard research – interviews, reviewing current information in terms of slides and written material as well as database research. However, with my newly formed perceptions of PowerPoints, I asked about past presentations and, voila, found several that go back as far as ten years. In reviewing these, there are two that have proved most useful. They provide material that I can use to create the first half of the video. In addition, they helped me set-up the organization of the piece overall. This is material that, at one time, I would not have acquired or used. Now, instead of a missed opportunity, these old PowerPoints are adding a depth of information and helping with the end goal of the project. I’d call that an accomplishment.
Now that I’ve discovered this valuable source of information, as I move forward creating new materials for this or any other project, I will always ask the main SME’s involved if they, or any of their colleagues, have old presentations that could be used in overall development. And as far as my own office, I intend to implement a simple database system that tracks all our PowerPoint presentations. After all, there is a tremendous amount of work that is represented by each of these. Work that could be successfully utilized again in some other way.
Bajaj., G. (2013, February 11). 30 Million PowerPoint Presentations? Retrieved from Indezine.
Khatri, R. (2015, August 13). Aug 31, 2015. Retrieved from Linkedin.