PowerPoint abuse in Japan: we can learn a lot from the Japanese bento
January 24, 2005
One of the greatest things about living in Japan (at least for me) is coming back from Tokyo on the Shinkansen ("bullet train"). Successful meetings in Tokyo behind me, I boarded the super-fast 6:03pm Nozomi bound for Osaka complete with my "Ekiben" ("bentos" sold at the station, or "eki") and can of Asahi Super Dry (that's beer). Sure, there are trains in many countries, but few things seem such a quintessential "Japan experience" as zipping trough the Japan countryside aboard cutting-edge technology while sampling Japanese delicacies, sipping Japanese beer and catching glimpses of temples, shrines, and even Mount Fuji out the spacious side window.
While in the midst of eating the contents of my bento, I glanced to my right across the aisle to see a "salary man" reviewing a printed version of his PowerPoint slides. Two slides per page, one page after another filled with slide boxes crammed with Japanese text. No white space. No graphics. Just slide after slide of Japanese text. Were these slides used in a stand-up presentation? If so, I sympathize with the audience. Or, were they merely a document printed in PowerPoint? If so, I pity both the author and the reader: PowerPoint is not a tool for document creation.
What a contrast in the presentation of great content: the beautifully efficient, well designed "ekiben" which contains nothing superfluous, and the poorly designed, ugly, difficult-to-understand PowerPoint slides across the aisle. Hmmm, should the design of your slides be more like the Japanese bentos sold on the bullet train? Yes. An "ekiben" contains great content which is arranged in the most efficient, graceful manner. The bento is presented in a simple, beautiful, balanced way. Nothing lacking. Nothing superfluous. Not decorated, but wonderfully designed. A delicious, inspiring way to spend 20 minutes. When was the last time you could say the same about a presentation you saw?