By Rick Altman
Living just 20 miles from Oakland, the city described as having the eyes of the nation upon it, I know all about protests. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the ‘60s, when anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were the rule of the day, I understand the power of group emotion.
And given that “Death by PowerPoint” is a part of everyone’s vocabulary today, it comes as no surprise that community leaders have reached the following determination:
It’s time to occupy the software.
Three of the most active members of the user community have been busy creating a strategy for occupation. Steffen Ginsler, Richar Brett-Slider, and Eskimo Winsdorf have been pooling their expertise into a broad-based strategy to eliminate the abuses in our professional society once and for all.
An accomplished VBA developer, Ginsler has created a script that installs itself without the user’s knowledge and eliminates all layouts that contain bulleted text. “It is kind of like a friendly Trojan horse,” says the soft-spoken Ginsler. “It doesn’t do any real damage to your computer, but it prevents you from bringing harm to others — namely, the people in your audience.”
Winsdorf is not quite as reserved as her friend Steffen. “Hey, what do you expect us to do when all these people are acting like idiots?” she asks, without waiting for an answer. “It’s ridiculous that there are no safeguards to insure against crappy design and sloppy standards. It’s time we took matters into our own hands!”
In the most interesting position is Brett-Slider, a former member of the PowerPoint development team. He persuaded his successors to modify the Animation engine with password protection on the following choices: Boomerang, Spiral, Zoom, and Bounce. If users attempt to apply any of them on a slide, the system intervenes and requires a written explanation of the usage.
The explanation is sent to a panel of presentation designers, led by Nancy Latte and Garth Sandals, for review. Within 24 hours, the panel issues a ruling on the appropriateness of its usage. Based on that ruling, the Animation task pane will either provide a password for entry or the animation choices in question will be permanently removed from the program.
“Some of my colleagues thought this might have been drastic,” said Richar in his characteristic baritone. (Richar’s brother couldn’t pronounce the “d” in “Richard” when he was young; Richar dropped the letter from his name in his brother’s honor.) “I assured them that it would be a great career move — everyone talks about bad PowerPoint but nobody does anything about it. This would be their big chance.”
Areas of the program yet to be occupied include sound effects attached to slide transitions, color schemes involving red text and green backgrounds, and clip-art characters not wearing underpants. “We have occupation campaigns in place for all of these offenses,” warns Winsdorf. “We’re going to put an end to Death by PowerPoint, even if it kills us.”
There it is, in one crystalized sentence: Occupy PowerPoint will keep you from killing yourself…or else it will kill you. If only the other Occupy movements could have such a clearly-articulated charter.
About the Author:
Rick Altman has been hired by hundreds of companies, listened to by tens of thousands of professionals, and read by millions of people, all of whom seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. He runs the acclaimed Presentation Summit conference, formerly known as PowerPoint Live, and is author of the book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck & How You Can Make Them Better. For more information, visit his website www.betterppt.com