Is a holiday PowerPoint party the worst or the best idea for 2020?

Because your most controversial holiday party opinions on the fiduciary policy of Scrooge McDuck demand a PowerPoint slide deck, star wipes, and bullet points.

Credit: Rob Schultz/IDG

Microsoft has some suggestions for the sad and depressing situation we’re in—stuck indoors during a season where we’ve traditionally enjoyed holiday parties with friends and coworkers, sipping adult beverages while noshing on tasty bites of all kinds.

Yes, we know this is the same Microsoft that’s been very hit-or-miss when it comes to consumers. The company can’t design a PC games store to save its life. On the other hand, selling Windows-themed ugly holiday sweaters for a good cause was absolutely inspired.

But how can a PowerPoint holiday party possibly be a good idea?

Well, maybe it's this year, but we’re less horrified than we thought we'd be.

Microsoft’s tips for virtual holiday parties, buried at the end of this Microsoft Teams post, seem horribly corporate: using breakout rooms, funny Snap Camera filters, the works. It’s like HR handing out drink coupons.

The worst—the very worst—has to be this recommendation: “To help break the ice, we recommend jumping on a popular trend, the PowerPoint Party.”

powerpoint party 5 large Twitter / @_taylorswope

PowerPoint parties encourage...unconventional viewpoints.

PowerPoint. Party. How can there be two words more diametrically opposed in the English language? Here, let me introduce myself...via bullet points. Perhaps I can interest you in my LinkedIn profile while we chat? Maybe... (heh heh) collaborate on a shared document? And you thought reindeer antlers were cheesy.

It gets worse. Naturally, because Microsoft is Microsoft, someone was asked to create a community document explaining just how one should go about creating a PowerPoint party. Now, this isn’t nearly as epic as the infamous Windows 7 launch party video, which orbited the “so bad it’s good” cycle before landing on the terminator between “cringe” and “spectacular.” But it’s still mind-boggling to see this documented as a step-by-step process (what, no slides?). There’s even—yes!—a PowerPoint template to get you started. Is this not the very bottom of the boiling sludge pit that has been 2020?

powerpoint party 2 large Twitter / @bleachblomde

Creativity is encouraged, as is annotation.

Absolutely...until you bother to see what a PowerPoint party actually is. And then, grudgingly, like the first time you tried a dating app, you reluctantly, painfully, resignedly acknowledge that this might not be such a bad idea after all.

Mind you, I refuse to believe the Buzzfeed reporter who “broke the story” on PowerPoint parties in 2018 that “PowerPoint parties” was, in fact, a plural noun--that anyone in 2018 took it on themselves to bring PowerPoint to a party, even ironically, and thereafter maintained an actual social life. I’m still somewhat in the camp that followup reports were made up for Internet points, social media “proof” be damned.

powerpoint party 1 large Twitter / @ifpistemology

Even the mundane becomes magical in PowerPoint.

But if I peer way, way back to the hazy, pre-pandemic times of 2019, I can vaguely recall parties and other social occasions where someone would pull out their phone to make a point. Here, watch this video. Or no, it’s actually on Wikipedia! 

I suppose, if I’m absolutely forced to admit this, that the most entertaining people at parties are either the most creative, or the funniest, or those with an interesting or informative perspective to share. And yes, in a world where we dive into Tiktoks and (ha!) Quibis and YouTube videos and listicles, there’s still a need for people to have a way to share interesting tidbits that they themselves have created or believed in  passionately, such as an explanation of the moral compass of a character in the Sonic the Hedgehog games.

This world (for now) also means that we can’t get together with friends and present them with our analysis of the relationship between anime and quantum physics or the political parties that the characters in kids shows would vote for or just why The Lego Movie is a “goddamn cinematic masterpiece”. And if we can’t do that, we need to do it online. And if we’re online, we may as well use PowerPoint.

powerpoint party redo larger Twitter / @Miexriir

Can you swear in a corporate PowerPoint? Probably not. But in a PowerPoint party, all bets are off.

So no, you can’t escape using the same tool you may have used to explain the Q4 performance of the Iowa branch, or the genomic relationship between frogs and other amphibians, or where Napoleon ranks in the hierarchy of historical generals. At least you can use all of the fancy PowerPoint wipes and other transitions that would normally get you laughed right out of the room.

Remember, it could be worse: Excel parties.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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