Introduction: Killing Them Softly

So there I was: front row center, really looking forward to the speaker before me. He looked pleasant enough. A slight smile danced casually across his face as he nodded welcome to those of us taking our seats.

As a group, I think we were all pretty much with him­ upbeat and positively expectant. I myself was pleasantly surprised when the 60 or so of us waited only a few short minutes before his opening remarks-among them something like, "...also, I think you'll find this very interesting...." Well, as he made other such promises I was ready. Granted, I did have this nagging suspicion about the "interesting" assurance, because he did seem a little low in the energy department. Not great presence, I thought. But what the heck, it was 1 p.m. so I shrugged it off to the "ate too much for lunch" dip. See, as a fellow presenter, I like to give every other presenter the benefit of the doubt as the show starts. So, after weighing in, heavily in his favor, I sat back, settled in, and began to go with his flow.

His talk-or should I say PowerPoint "show"-went 50 minutes. I had only one overriding thought when it was over: "Thank God I survived this disaster!" I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that thought. I could feel it-and see it on other people's faces, too.

Here's how the horror started: after those first few welcom­ ing remarks, this guy switched the lights off, and with a carefully aimed Toshiba Satellite laptop, began to pummel the screen with one PowerPoint slide after another, each of which quickly ricocheted into the audience. When this dreadful presentation was over, less than an hour later, I felt like I'd been taken hostage and tortured. Beaten mercilessly with stray bullet points; drawn and quartered by pictures that had my eyes going in several different comers of the screen all at the same time, then stabbed repeatedly by colors that fought amongst themselves like savage gangbangers. We were helpless. There was no escape. We sat, dazed, while getting whacked right there in the grand ballroom of the Hilton Hotel. I wanted to die for the guy, but I was too busy thinking about dying myself. For had this presentation gone on much longer I would have had no choice but to just hang myself from the chandelier with my purse strap. But thankfully the Guardian Angel of Speech-Endurance had carefully delivered me-somehow miraculously spared all of us, in fact-from that mind-boggling, natural disaster. At least it appeared that the Angel had watched over each of us, for it seemed like all 59 of us were able to stagger (albeit lifelessly) toward the exit sign.

But sadly enough, Mr. Summers (and I'm using a pseudonym here to spare this motivational senior vice president any further humiliation and to conceal his identity) had no clue. He managed to kill what could potentially have been an excellent presentation. Blew it to smithereens, in fact. Unwittingly, as I just pointed out, and in the process, he also barely managed to keep his audience alive.

I didn't look back to see if he was bewildered, disappointed in himself, or if he showed any feelings of remorse at all. I just wanted to get the hell out of there, so I headed for the safety of the lobby with the others. There victims rested, some slumped on sofas, practically lifeless; others angry and edgy. One even suggested the speaker's computer be confiscated, locked up and/or thrown away. Overall, collectively, we were extremely disappointed. For after all, we'd entered into this experience with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm. And, we were promised certain things. Ironically, this was intended to be an inspirational talk on ways to find more meaning and vibrancy in our lives, that we deserved better. When it was over, though, we were left for dead!

Shortly after the traumatic ordeal, I tried to take a more charitable attitude toward the speaker because I really believed there was no malice-aforethought on this part, nor did I think he set about in a premeditated way to make us miserable. But others were not as kind.

There were expletives and sneers.

Finally, as I made my way to the ladies' room dodging a flurry of negative remarks, that wonderful bible verse popped into my head: "Forgive him, for he knows not what he does."

That is my mantra when I'm tempted to be critical of anyone who kills a presentation with his or her use of PowerPoint. I think it's nothing more than generally not knowing right from wrong. It's sheer ignorance. So the average PowerPoint offender need not be punished but rather rehabilitated. And, that's what this book is all about: straightening out the wayward. Of course, its lessons are also carefully crafted to help would-be "first­ timers"; making certain they don't start out in the PowerPoint world accidentally killing off both their presentations and their audiences as they get behind the mouse!