Sunday, January 27, 2008

Open letter to the Microsoft Powerpoint Development Team

Dear Microsoft Powerpoint Development Team;
Congratulations. You have taken over the world of conferences. Not that they were the liveliest bunch before you came along, but now they are conquered. So thoroughly conquered that all presentations now depend wholly on your product, and there is no longer any conceivable other method to disseminate any information. Again - Congratulations.
But you have overlooked one small element of the equation - an oversight that equates to bad design - and it is this bad design that will eventually herald your doom. What you have forgotten is this: the provided box-lunch.
A conference is nothing without its provided box lunch - all conference goers know this. In fact at the end of the day it will seldom be the content of the presentations or the fancy transition effects that is discussed. It is instead the quality of the roast beef or turkey sandwich - something for which you have sadly made absolutely no provision.
You see - when a conference planner lays out the times for each session, he or she chooses an almost standard chunk of time. One hour, or two hours, or the indecisive one-hour-and-a-half are all popular session lengths. Particular savvy planners - or those holding conferences for teachers - choose 55, 85, or 115 minutes to allow for passing periods, but the standard is there.
Consequently those esteemed professionals with a high enough profile in their fields to be saddled with the thankless task of presenting a session plan to use the allotted time as efficiently - and fully - as their subject matter will allow. They prepare an insightful, informative, seldom tastefully designed, often impossible to read powerpoint absolutely riddled with animation effects. And then they stand in front of the room full of eager pre-lunch faces, introduce themselves, and begin.
What they fail to consider, what the conference planners fail to consider, what what anyone who uses technology to make life easier can not possibly, by virtue of their own dedication to products like yours, consider is that it will take an entire 20 minutes to set up the computer, projector, screen, speakers, etc. Because in order to keep buying your very expensive products, you customers must remain blind to their defects, the responsibility for this falls on you.
Because of this defect, all of the conference people, planners, presenters and poor lowly attendees alike, must sit for these 20 minutes watching a comic struggle unfold, and watching their lunch break slip further and further away. Because where does the time for this technological tom-foolery come from? It comes from lunch.
Please help us. It comes from our lunch time. Just 3 morning sessions before lunch, and already your hour-long sandwich-in-a-box respite is shot to hell. Two more sessions in the afternoon, and we are looking at a 40 minute deficit on tomorrow's lunch. That's not even enough time to ignore the sandwich and go straight for the potato chips and the mini-coke.
So I ask you this, O development team of Powerpoint, in the great brain trust at Redmond - please. Pretty-please. Pretty-please with single-serving packets of mayo and mustard on top. Please get us our lunches back. Give us back our sandwiches in two options, our potato chips, our miniature soft drinks, even our baby carrots and celery spears.
Because without them, the conference is lost. It is over before it even begins. Without our provided box-lunches what will we talk about in the seedy-but-sterile hotel bar?


PS. If we only get back one sandwich, make it the roast beef. And try for that good mayo that comes in the foil packets.


Barb Carusillo said...

I'm taking a wild guess here, but just maybe you have had some bad power point experience lately? At a time when you were really hungry?
Hey, at least it was running...I was a speaker at an osteoporosis conference once, and I just used lowly overhead transparencies for my AV work since I didn't have access to power point at the time. The whole system went on the fritz and everyone else had to present without their power point, and I, the only uncool low tech person, was the only one who could display their info! No box lunch needed.

annette said...

oh cale, what a treat you are. at the end of a long day, totally exhausted, i long on to your blog eager to see the latest...and am thoroughly entertained and even find the energy to laugh out loud!! i suppose when i am 93 you will still be entertaining me - from mars, remember: )