I entered the corporate netherworld in the late Paleolithic Era.
In those days tribal women known as “secretaries” crouched at “typewriters.” Intratribal communication took the form of the “memorandum,” familiarly known as the “memo.”
Today corporate anthropologists theorize that the memo was a means of reinforcing cohesion and common purpose throughout the tribe.
We know that the Digital Age overpowered this primitive culture as email and other electronic media supplanted typewriters and carbon paper. The memo was left behind with the ashes and the strewn shards of broken pottery.
Careful reconstruction of this ancient corporate culture indicates that the composition of business memos required that the workers attain at least the rudiments of grammar, syntax, logic and punctuation. Reading such a document required the ability to concentrate for as long as several minutes while pondering abstract concepts. As these skills atrophied, the memo became archaic.
Enter PowerPoint. Now anyone with apish skill could select symbols that display as bullet points or cute pictures. And who the hell needed paragraphs when sentence fragments seemed to suffice?
Toward the conclusion of my mediocre career, the PowerPoint “deck” became the customary means for presenting multi-million-dollar proposals to senior executives. Yeah, it seemed strange to me, too, that such weighty decisions would be pondered and approved on the basis of a few catch phrases and cartoonish illustrations, with cool colors and groovy icons.
Consider how many hours you and I spent sitting in those ubiquitous conference room presentations: The speaker clicks buttons and peers nervously at the projection. He speaks the words on the screen. He clicks the button and pauses before speaking the words on the next screen. In a sad variation on the Stockholm Syndrome, the presenter is captive to images. Techno-cuteness triumphs.
Here’s a thought: How ‘bout facing the meeting with cogent ideas and words, and not a single goddamn slide?