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PowerPoint: Rated X for Excruciating

Sex in the workplace is an issue with which many businesses struggle. Entire HR departments are writing entire employee manuals designed to make co-workers stop “doing what comes naturally.” Cubical walls are designed to be the modern equivalent of bundling boards for consenting co-workers, while corporate retreats, once hedonistic playgrounds for the executive staff, have become as sedative as quilting bees, only not as much fun.

Small wonder the business community is so excited about the latest results of a survey conducted by that popular purveyor of presentation technology, SlideRocket.

According to the survey results, nearly one-fourth of the people polled asserted that they would give up sex if it meant that they could avoid a PowerPoint presentation. In fairness to poor Microsoft, the respondents only promised to abstain from sex for one night. And if that was a night that “Ice Loves Coco” was on TV, who’d have any appetite for sex anyway?

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For the folks at SlideRocket, the survey results were a clarion call for American business to get more creative when it comes to presentations. Not me. I think the results show that we need more — not fewer — excruciatingly dull PowerPoint presentations.

Think about it: PowerPoint presentations could be the saltpeter of modern business. If we had enough long and boring presentations, the sex drive of even the most randy employees would be reduced to zero. Trust me — no amount of hormones can overcome the anti-aphrodisiacal effects of an animated bullet list.

If you could take your mind off sex for a moment, you might be interested to know the other metrics of PowerPoint rage. Given the choice, 20 percent of respondents would rather go to the dentist than sit through a PowerPoint presentation. Twenty-one percent would rather do their taxes. And a full 18 percent would prefer to work on Saturdays than spend another hour viewing tiny text or trying to decipher blue letters on a blue background.

Even if management does manage to corral an audience of sex-starved employees, the effectiveness of the presentation may be limited. According to the survey, more than 32 percent of the respondents have been sent to dreamland by a PowerPoint presentation. More than half (55 percent) have fallen asleep more than once, and a full 20 percent have “fallen asleep so many times during a presentation that they have lost count.”

Interestingly, women are more likely to stay awake than men, but I’m not sure this is a big surprise. Everyone knows that women are better able to endure pain.

Again, SlideRocket views the soporific effect of PowerPoints as a problem. I see it as a great advantage. Everyone in the work force today is so anxious and overworked that the concept of a “good night’s sleep” is pure nostalgia. What better place to catch 40 or 80 or 120 winks than in an Aeron chair in Conference Room 1? Just think how rested you’ll feel when it’s time to go home, or how much money you’ll save by not having to buy Ambien in bulk at the Costco.

Not all employees sitting through a PowerPoint go to sleep. Many simply go.

Nearly 30 percent of respondents have snuck out of a presentation at least once. This definitely raises questions about productivity in America. I’m not talking about the 30 percent who leave. I’m concerned about the 70 percent who stay! Hopefully, they’re staying because they are asleep, or perhaps, they are focused on the wild sex that they would rather not be having. But if the full 70 percent are actually interested and involved in some management doofus reading slides, America is in trouble.

Of the 30 percent who sneak out, we don’t know what percentage are the people giving the presentation. Given the program’s ability to run itself, it is possible that while the audience is being tortured, the presenter is being wined and dined at The Kit Kat Klub.

It’s not impossible. When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, while 29 percent “dread sitting through one,” 33 percent “dread creating a presentation.” The survey points to the difficulty of using PowerPoint, but I suspect the dread factor comes into play when the presenter realizes the pain that he or she is about to inflict on their co-workers.

Of course, the 33 percent of presenters who experience dread are outnumbered by the 67 percent who crave the power in PowerPoint. To my knowledge, there has yet to be a case of death by PowerPoint, but do stay awake. It’s sure to happen.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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