No PowerPoint has ever crumbled an empire

When I edit, I am perfectly capable of keeping my thoughts to myself — dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and keep your mouth shut, as it were. I am reticent with the commentary when I first start editing for someone, simply because they have no way of knowing how I work or what I’ll say, so I want to be at least a little gentle.

However, at the same time I warn people who ask me to edit things that I am not a cheerleader. I will point out awkward constructions, faulty logic, and boring dialogue. I have used the term “crack-smoking monkeys”. I’m not there to tell people how great they are (though if the work is great I’ll certainly say so).

Greek chorus editing isn’t nearly as much fun, though, and I have been told that often it’s the commentary that proves the most valuable. Though I admit, sometimes, if what I’m reading engages my mind, the comments are as much a function of me musing textually out loud as anything.

One of my comments while editing a piece on presenting (i.e. public speaking), in the section about speeches vs. presentations, was this:

[Hmm� great speeches can spark revolutions. Can great presentations?]

It was about midnight on a Wednesday when I wrote that, and I’d been at work for four hours, so I was in a kind of wired-and-worn-out state, and didn’t have anything further to offer on the observation than that. But the article was good, and happened to dovetail with things I’d been reading recently, so there was a lot going on in my head behind that comment.

The following is more or less the text of a reply email I sent regarding my thoughts on that comment and where it came from. I post it because it certainly has been interesting to think about, and because this is one of the rare times I’ll ever comment on politics. 🙂

The weird thing is that my inkling is that the same kind of power that can reside in a speech is there in presentations, but I don’t think I have enough depth of knowledge about the subject to say how or when it would be invoked.

My cynicism is inclined to think that you wouldn’t find it in the corporate realm, simply because, in general, corporate presentations are so awful, and we’ve become inured to them. But the other side of my brain says not to dismiss that so handily. The corporate does drive much of our world, but it’s foolish to think we have even the slightest clue what goes on in there at the highest levels. (I.e. the levels at which world-changing decisions or approvals are made.)

The thought actually came to me because I’d been catching up on my blogs, and I’ve now read in a number of different places sentiments to the effect that Obama supporters find him not just believable or supportable, but inspiring — not something I’ve heard south of the border, or here at home, since… who knows.

Which led to thinking that, politically, an unfortunate amount of disillusionment and disenfranchisement comes from public figures making presentations and not speeches. (Doing one when the other is called for, or only ever doing one when flexibility and range is called for.) I mean, really, when was the last time we heard “I have a dream” or “Four score and seven years ago” or “Ask not what your country can do for you”?

I use all American examples simply because the person to whom the email was addressed is American, they’re among the most recognized in North American culture, and they’re recursive to the Obama pondering.