These days, I find it mildly amusing that one of the first well paying jobs that I had was producing "foils" (as IBM called them) for presentations on an overhead projector (remember them?). This was in the days before Powerpoint, when the best package on the market was Harvard Graphics. I spent the better part of a year working for some very large companies, churning out hundreds of slides per week for use at Board meetings and CEO presentations and that sort of thing.
If I had any money at the time, I could have done well out of insider trading, given the sort of information that I was asked to turn into slides on a daily basis.
Back then, you actually employed people to produce presentations, because the software was expensive and tricky to use, and the only people that were allowed to have professional looking presentations were a small number of senior managers - because the damned things were so expensive to produce. We had a high tech, wax-transfer printer for producing colour slides, and the wax, slides printer and cover sheets all cost a bomb. Everyone else had to make do with handwriting stuff onto re-usable plastic sheets.
Those were the golden years. Meetings were short, presentations were short, rare and to the point and very few middle managers died of boredom during working hours.
Then along came bloody Powerpoint. Suddenly no meeting, however humble, could be held without a presentation of some sorts. No speech could be made unless it was illustrated by 50 or 60 slides. To be unskilled in the use of Powerpoint was to be rendered useless as an employment candidate.
It struck me last night that I had not seen, or been asked to draw up, a Powerpoint presentation for over a year. Since leaving the public sector, Powerpoint has left my life. The private companies that I have been working for have no projectors or projection screens in their meeting rooms, and I never see a printed out presentation sitting on the uncollected pile next to a printer. I have not yet figured out why they use Powerpoint so little - maybe they are cheap bastards who refuse to pay for projectors. Or maybe they have a thing against endless, boring meetings that achieve little. I'll have to look into it some more over the next few weeks.
One thing hasn't changed though. I saw my old boss not long ago. He was in his usual spot, sitting in a cafe having a coffee and a fag, and he was flicking through the draft of a Powerpoint presentation that he had to give to a meeting later that week. From experience, I knew that a 20 minute presentation would absorb several days of his time in drafting, plus a few days from subordinate managers like me. In many cases, he'd give the presentation, then be asked to come back a week later to do a follow up presentation containing more information.
I reckon you could reduce public sector employment by 20% by simply uninstalling Powerpoint from every PC in the place.