Posted by: spacewritinguy | November 20, 2008

Occasional Signs of Sanity in the Workplace

Imagine that your boss has a big presentation to give to some “important people.” She doesn’t know how long it has to be (anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours), she has no idea who will be in the room, or what their specific interests are. All she does know is that the future of her project and job hinge on the quality and success of this presentation.

Now imagine that you’re her speech writer. You’ve been shown the presentation AFTER your boss has already set the wheels in motion. After all, “the graphics guy can put the slides together. You don’t need a writer to put together a PowerPoint.”

Okay, wait, it gets better. The presentation was over a hundred slides long! Jumpin’ Jeebus on a pogo stick.

Au contraire.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to get a formal education in technical communication understand that we are not “just writers.” We are information designers. That means we have some sense of which information will have the greatest impact, what order the information should appear in, and what form it should take.

Of course, if our manager has similar appreciation for what you do, they will understand that you should be included in the process on the front end. BEFORE the graphics guy just goes forth and grabs whatever slides the boss wants. Alas, that didn’t happen, and now it became my job to tell the boss that her baby is ugly. Okay, I followed the chain of command first: talked to my supervisor, talked to the next person up the chain, talked to the boss’s handlers. At every step, I was fact-focused and rational. I explained my concerns, and said, point-blank, that the pitch was too frickin’ long. My opinion was sympathized with, agreed with, and then dispensed with.

To his credit, in the PPT briefing with the boss, one of the boss’s handlers pointed out my concerns: I should’ve been brought in earlier, and I thought that the presentation should be shorter. The boss said, “Okay. Well, let’s take a look at it.” The review went forward, with the boss cutting out some of the slides, but leaving the content at more than 100 slides.

So at the end of the meeting, as the boss was shaking hands all around for such a jolly good job everyone had done (I was restricted to polishing the turd), I took one last shot. “Do we have a fallback position, in case we have a shorter time frame, like maybe a shorter version of the pitch?” The boss said, “I’ll just flip through the charts faster if I have to.” Groaaaan.

After the boss left the room, I turned to two of her handlers, and asked if I could have a look at the final version that came out of the review today, to see if I could pick the top 10-20 slides and put together a “best-of” pitch, just in case. To my relief, they said yes. So the boss will do her thing, and I’ll do my thing, as a backup, just in case, because that’s how I keep my job.



  1. […] The boss decided to talk to one of her handlers after yesterday’s presentation meeting. Come to think of it, she had a change of heart, and decided she DID want a 30-page version of the […]

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