How Big Companies are Using PowerPoint During the Covid-19 Lockdown

I recently caught up over Skype with Mark Johnson, a strategy consultant and former Senior Vice President at IBM, to find out how his teams were using the technology they had available to them to collaborate remotely effectively.

Like most of us, Mark and his team were working from home and having to adapt the way they communicate. This has resulted in an increased reliance on technology - including PowerPoint.

Andrew: So Mark, what difference has the lock down had on your team and the way it works?

Mark: Similar to most in our industry, my team and I now work entirely remotely - with face to face communication and meetings being completely eradicated. As you know, this change occurred almost overnight affording us little time to prepare. As a result, we are having to learn to adapt as we go.

Andrew: How have you adapted?

Mark: First and foremost, we have become incredibly reliant on Skype to communicate. Video calls are helping us retain some semblance of normality - but the main benefit is the ability to share one another's screen, taking control of the pen and editing documents collaboratively remotely. We used to conduct team meetings around our physical team board but have moved over to PowerPoint dashboards and POAPs (Plan on a Page).

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Andrew: Why are you using PowerPoint?

Mark: Everyone has access to PowerPoint and can use it. The onset of the lockdown was so quick, we didn't have time to identify a bespoke collaboration tool and implement it. It would be a bad move to introduce a new system or tool at this point in time all things considered. In addition, we must abide by corporate data security policies - we can't turn to an externally hosted collaboration tool such as Trello and so needed to look at what we could do with what we already had. PowerPoint isn't perfect but it has become so useful to use lately!

Andrew: How else are you using PowerPoint?

Mark: Well we're creating dashboards and plans and so on on PowerPoint - its highly visual and that's what we need when screen sharing and discussing things over Skype. PowerPoint really helps us to communicate effectively when we're not in the room together and suffering from the usual drawbacks of a conference call. Secondly, we are creating diagrams on PowerPoint, sharing control of the screen with each other and actively editing and collaborating on the document as we talk. We are using the same principle to replace our whiteboard sessions - Post-It notes have been replaced with PowerPoint shapes.

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Andrew: What have the challenges been?

Mark: PowerPoint is a tool, like everything else. We've still needed to change the way we communicate so that the tool works for us. Similarly, it isn't fit for purpose and doesn't do everything we need it to - it's a presentation tool being used for something different. We're having to think outside the box in some cases - using PPSX formats and converting to video for example in order to ensure our carefully crafted message is being delivered exactly the way we need it to.

Andrew: Any tips for us!?

Mark: Get good at PowerPoint if you're going to use it! The more visually appealing your slides or dashboards or whatever are, the more successful you will be in landing your message. Bullet points on a page will not cut it - you need to use images and diagrams and so on to help mitigate against the reduction in communication efficacy caused by being remote. If you attend your next team meeting, share your screen and present a stunning graphic or table or roadmap or whatever it is, you will quickly position yourself as a leader or the go-to-person of this way of working - and that is an incredibly valuable thing to do when you consider how long we will likely be working remotely.

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Mark spoke to me on March 30th 2020 via Skype. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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