Maybe if we labeled PowerPoint as a lethal weapon

Or at least put a warning label on it.

It seems so innocent, but PowerPoint (or Keynote for us Apple fans) can lead to huge problems. We know that PowerPoint misuse contributed to the 1986 Challenger space shuttle tragedy and the loss of the shuttle Columbia. Columnists have written about “death by PowerPoint.”

Now it looks as though PowerPoint may have contributed to unnecessary deaths involving the Chevrolet Cobalt, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Look, folks, PowerPoint is a tool. It has a specific purpose, just like a screwdriver has a specific purpose. You don’t use a screwdriver to remove a nail from a piece of wood. You don’t use a shovel to cut a hole in drywall. You don’t use PowerPoint to communicate detailed—especially critical—information.

You. Don’t. Do. It.

You tell the person verbally. Then you follow it up with a written document—not a lousy PowerPoint slide or printout of a slide.

I love using Apple’s Keynote, but I don’t use it every time I give a presentation. Some presentations don’t need visuals to reinforce the verbal message. Presentation slides should never, ever be used as a substitute for actual written information.

We lawyers are probably the least likely to use PowerPoint in this way. But we lawyers can tell our clients not to do it. Just think about the potential liabilities some creative lawyer will come up with when she learns your client misused PowerPoint to convey extremely important information.

Let’s end the PowerPoint misuse starting right now. Forward this to your clients and colleagues. Consider it your good deed for the day.

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