Seth Godin on a new standard for conferences
Notes on the summer '08 schedule

Toyota chief: refrain from using PowerPoint

Toyota_slide An article that got some attention in Japan last week was this one (in Japanese), which says the Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Katsuaki Watanabe urged employees to show self-restraint and stop the wasteful practice of using PowerPoint for the creation of documents (what I call slideuments). The CEO made this statement while talking about the need to reduce costs at Toyota. He is reminding employees to be cost conscious and he used the practice of using PowerPoint as an example of waste. Watanabe said that (in the good old days?) they used to use one piece of paper to make a clear point or proposal, or to summarize an issue, but now everything is in PowerPoint, he says, which uses many sheets of paper and expensive colors...but it's a waste. The CEO is not saying that PowerPoint is necessarily harmful (he does not mention its use for actual presentations), but he is saying printed "documents" made with the presentation tool tend to have less content, less clarity, and yet use more paper/ink and take more time. In the context of a challenging economy and an atmosphere of reducing costs, what would you say of any business practice that (1) takes more time, (2) costs more money, and yet (3) appears to be less effective? In the spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement), even if the waste is small, it must be eliminated.

Slideument_slide Watanabe's sentiments are nothing new to you. You understand what many people do not: that visuals projected on a screen in support of a live talk are very different from material that is to be printed and read and/or analyzed. You understand that the term "PowerPoint presentation" is antiquated and meaningless for it suggests that there is but one way to make a presentation with the aid of slideware or other multimedia (i.e., the typical death-by-PowerPoint way with a projector or the practice of printing out reams of tiny slides which lack depth ). Many people misunderstood Watanabe's comments to mean he banned the use of PowerPoint. The problem is that in Japan—like other places in the world—there is often no distinction made between documents (slideuments made in PowerPoint) and presentation slides prepared for projection. They are often interchangeable. Sounds efficient, right? And it would be funny if it was not so inefficient, wasteful, and unproductive. The slideuments produced in Japan make understanding and precision harder when printed, and when used for projected slides in a darkened conference room, they are the country's number one cure for insomnia. Again, the Toyota CEO did not say anything you do not already know about the ineffective use of PowerPoint, but given his high stature and credibility we can hope that more people will come to realize that the printed slideument or docu-point is a scourge that must be eliminated from the business world and academia.

I was happy to read Watanabe's comments, but my fear is that because people have not been exposed to many effective methods of using PowerPoint (or Keynote, etc.) for live talks, there may be a push to ban the use of the tools themselves. Slideware, however, is not a method, it's simply a kind of tool. A kind of tool that can be used effectively or ineffectively. It all depends on your approach and your method.


Mark Normand

Living in Singapore, I've encountered the same attitude from some (larger) companies where they now want summarised reports in the form of PowerPoint. This has always bewildered me, as the same amount of content in a PPT over 10 pages can be easily placed in to a Word document in half a page.

Management reports are an essential tool for business by ensuring degrees of accountability, responsibility and shared perspective; and allow management to come to an informed decision. In part, these reports are already cut to the core - but in PPT, this becomes worse.

I wish senior management of companies who have adopted this practice, retain report hand-outs as proper 2-3 page documents - and leave PPT for the presentations - theres just a lot of 'time-cost' wastage everywhere in modern companies...



I can't say it enough: if you have so much text and figures you want to show, use word and write a report!!
Or have managers suddenly become unable to read anything written smaller than 30pt?


As thing Marialla is onto something when she questions whether managers can read anything smaller than 30pt.

There is a managerial attention deficit suggesting that anything which cannot be summarised in three bullet points is not worth saying and is too complex to be useful (the irony that the three bullets are then expanded in an unreadable 200 slides pack seems to escape most leaders).

This leads to an incredibly reductive approach which misses out the finer points of running an organization. Being concise indeed brings clarity but being concise means expressing an idea in the best possible way not destroying the meaning of an idea to fit the three bullets model.

At a time when lean is still high on many CEO's agenda and Toyota is still viewed as a company to emulate this post might be a great way to turn leaders to the ideas of presentation Zen by focusing on the hard benefits of your great ideas. Thanks Garr.


I have a question. The idea of making simple and concise presentations is great but what do you do when you have to use bullets? I.e. If you have a presentation about the features of an Accounting module for an ERP software. You could use a Word document but the visual effect is greater and you must use bullets.


Who says you have to use bullets? List them in the document (done in Word, not PowerPoint) given out after the presentation if they are essential. During the presentation, you can just have one slide that says "Features" and/or a visual. And then talk about them. If people can read the list of features on the screen, why do they need you to give a presentation?

I will say that once you start doing this, you will get a lot of uncomfortable stares from others in the room who are so used to reading along as you talk. I think it makes for better and more productive presentations/meetings in the long run, once they get used to the idea.

Meryl K. Evans

PowerPoint keeps getting a bad rap. It isn't PowerPoint's fault that a presentation is useless and boring. The sample templates could be part of the problem as people often don't work to change them for their purposes.

PowerPoint is a tool. It's how you use it that matters.

Meryl K. Evans

In addition to my previous comments, Watanabe has a valid point in the abuse of PowerPoint for documentation. The templates might help bring out key points, but they weren't meant to stand alone without a narrative.

I agree -- just use a word processor or e-mail to get your points across by using bullets and keywords such as:

Summary: This is a request for funds to support blah blah.

Background: blah blah blah

Bullet point 1
Bullet point 2
Bullet point 3

Action: Requesting your approval.

Whereas using PowerPoint would be more like:

Budget request

Bullet point 1
Bullet point 2
Bullet point 3

And that's hardly enough to do anything.

Graham Hill


I think Watanabe-san is referring to is the traditional use of A3s to summarise an opportunity, problem or project. This is part of the Hoshin Kanri approach to management.

(See the book Getting The Right Things Done for a worked introduction)

I was privileged to spend the last four years consulting closely with a Toyota national subsidiary, the last year as an interim head of department. Every new project was planned in its entirety on a single A3 piece of paper, rather than the more typical 50-page slideument common everywhere else. The A3 captured all the essential details of the project and enabled the Nemawashi process of gaining commitment to proceed from key stakeholders.

This is an enormously powerful approach to management. So good in fact, that I have adopted the Hoshin Kanri approach for ALL my non-Toyota cosulting today. Out are the 50-page slideuments. In are single pages of A3 paper. Everyone is better-off for it.

Graham Hill
Independent Consultant
Interim Manager

PS. Just love your Presentation Zen book.


Perhaps they can teach a lesson to Coca-cola -


Keith S

Garr -

I recently returned from the 2008 ASTD Conference where speakers were limited to 10 pages of handouts. Interestingly many speakers still used their PPT slides for handouts - they just left out the "unimportant" ones - to them, not the audience. Many presenters handouts did not follow the slides (I'm still trying to figure out one presentation). The art of sliduments has a long way to go...

Dave Fletcher

From the bottom of an email from the Colorado Forester's Association. Should be in a PPoint template, eh?

"Please consider your environmental responsibility before printing this e-mail"


I find your point, that a projection is something quite different from a printed document extremely important. I haven't read your entire blog, but I haven't seen anything much on the nature of the difference. So let me write a few quick words.

On paper you print/write black or colour on white, since the material is usually white. This makes sense, it's simple and it saves ink and energy.

Using a projector you are using light to write. I think it's most logical to write or draw light on dark in projected presentations. I know white slides can look very clean and crisp, but they also glare. The white sheet you are projecting, boxes you in and distracts from the content. Personally, I like to consider the wall or screen I'm projecting on as my writing surface, not the slide. Using a black background allows me to use the entire area of my slide for content without worrying much about margins.

If I may request something from you, it'd be some thought and information on the "technology" and "nature" of the projection and how it may translate into the design of projected presentation.

Thank you for all your work on the subject!


Is there any kind of follow up or accountability for such a move now that more than 2 years have passed since its adoption at Toyota? Are there any figures: man/hours gained, toner & paper savings besides the given-for-granted improvements in internal communication?

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