Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Yesterday, I went to the world’s most boring seminar. I went to learn PowerPoint and came away wanting nothing more than a more comfortable place to nap.

I rarely use PowerPoint, so I thought it best if I got a better understanding of how it works and what I could do with it. After a six hour seminar, I learned that I didn’t need to take that stupid course to learn how to work with PowerPoint—basically, I already knew everything—I just didn’t know I knew it… you know?

The class was held by James a “Certified Life Coach.” I’m not exactly sure what a life coach is, but if it’s being way too excited about a dull subject and entirely too enthusiastic about telling people about your wife, your vacation and yourself, then James is the best coach ever.

Problem one was that the course was not hands on. James explained that adults learn better visually and aurally, but not by hands on. I have since forgotten every last thing James showed and explained to the class. So much for that bullshit theory. Face it, James, they were too cheap to provide computers. He also mentioned that people come to class with little or no experience with computers and the class is slowed by these morons because they keep crashing their computers. I guess James has never heard of having beginning, intermediate and advanced classes.

I’d say about a third of the class had never touched PowerPoint before, didn’t own a computer, and probably stayed with monosyllabic words. I dubbed those people “Computer Cro-Magnons.” They would prove me right throughout the day. Another third were at my level: had worked with it, felt we needed actual training and knew just what the fuck computers were. And the last third were people that were forced to take the class by their bosses so they could look proactive. Those people arrived late, came back late from lunch and both breaks and managed to sneak out early.

Given the group’s odd dynamic, James was still an amazingly positive person. I know this because he told us ad nauseam. He also mentioned his lovely wife what’s-her-butt to the point I began to hate her too. We got to see presentations of his tenth anniversary trip to the Cayman Islands, where playing in crystal blue waters and money laundering are a way of life.

As the session started, James stunned us all by noting that PowerPoint is about the power AND the point…

What the fuck…?

He tried explaining it but I just wanted to raise my hand and say, “that is by far the lamest thing anyone has ever said in a seminar… and I’ve been to Tony Robbins.” For something with a lot of power, James’ point was lost with his amateurish presentation. I wanted something to inspire me, not make me think that my 9 year-old nephew could do better.

We instantly learned that if you raised your hand, you were quickly called upon to come up and work on the lone computer. Naturally, everyone but the Computer Cro-Magnons stopped raising their hands altogether. “Who thinks this is great?” He’s shout happily. Six hands went up. “Who hates this?” The same six went up again…

People kept raising their hands and then would have the audacity to act shocked that they were called upon. This worked the first seven times it happened, but when it happened to the same woman twice, it sort of lost its magic. “Oh my God!” she uttered rising to her feet, “I’m so embarrassed,” she said while knocking aside a woman returning from the restroom, “I can’t” she blushed sitting down in front of the computer, “Oh… alright.” Interestingly, no one encouraged Emily. In fact, James was pointing to the woman behind her, but Emily was blushing and wincing so much on her way up to the computer that she didn’t notice. And let me just say Emily was not exactly a whiz on the computer—more likely she took one on it. It crashed twice at each of her attempts to “get this blasted thing to work.” And, yes, she did utter the words, “stupid computer” several times. The mark of a computer genius is blaming the computer for everything. “Why won’t it work?” she muttered. It was all I could do not to yell out, “Kill yourself!” I chickened out and quietly muttered, “why not try turning the computer back on?” As she had turned it off after she crashed the unit.

Towards the end, James finally got to the point that most of us were interested in, and after being held up by idiots questioning such difficult tasks as “saving files” and the equally complicated and mysterious “wav files” we were ready. After about 30 seconds of James showing us this, I realized that I could do this so easily… by myself. I could see the recognition going off in people’s faces… suddenly the attendance dropped in half. Had James provided computers, we would have been ahead of him in seconds and demanded our money back.

James decided to “put it all together” at the end and create a presentation “on the fly.” “Let’s think of a subject…” Well, before anyone could even raise their hand, James jumped in with the idea of Life Coaching (or whatever the fuck he called it). It’s like EST or Empower Your Ass, or some such nonsense. Whatever it was, it was perky and happy and that shit don’t fly with me.

He went along, telling us to dream big. The biggest dream I could come up with was to wish for the roof to collapse, killing us all. He blathered on and stuck in still more pictures of his trip to the Cayman Islands and of his wife. I’m almost positive his anniversary trip was simply a tax right off.

Finally, the agony was over and we were allowed to leave. Looking back, I learned so much from this seminar:
1) read the fine print
2) bring lots and lots of Red Bull
3) Dream Big (trust me, I dream of ‘big ones’ all the time
4) it’s about the power AND the point

I should be off to create great PowerPoint presentations now… but since I learned nothing, I think I’ll just go to lunch.

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