The Empire Strikes Back

I have written about the extent to which PowerPoint has permeated the military in the United States. Many people, including high-ranking officers, believe that it has gotten out of hand. Well, it appears that PowerPoint has friends in high places and we see what happens when the Empire Strikes Back.

The Empire Strikes Back

Salon.com reported about Lawrence Sellin, a United States Army Reserve Colonel in Afghanistan. Fed up with the constant onslaught of inane, numbing PowerPoint presentations, Sellin wrote an unauthorized editorial letting people know how he felt. Consider the following excerpts:

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The [Commander’s Update Assessment] consists of a series of PowerPoint slides describing the events of the previous 12 hours. Briefers explain each slide by reading from a written statement in a tone not unlike that of a congressman caught in a tryst with an escort. The CUA slides only change when a new commander arrives or the war ends.

The [Commander’s Update Assessment] consists of a series of PowerPoint slides describing the events of the previous 12 hours. Briefers explain each slide by reading from a written statement in a tone not unlike that of a congressman caught in a tryst with an escort. The CUA slides only change when a new commander arrives or the war ends.

Senior officials didn’t find his comments helpful or amusing. The transferred Sellin out of Afghanistan for his unauthorized pennings.

Admittedly, Sellin‘s writing a critical article about US military operations without proper authorization that was his undoing. Indeed, Sellin clearly knew the risks. He began his article, “Throughout my career I have been known to walk that fine line between good taste and unemployment. I see no reason to change that now.”

Score one for the defenders of innumerable bullet points, convoluted flow charts, reams of text and other horrors. A classic case of The Empire Strikes Back.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

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I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

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John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

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John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

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