PowerPoint of Doom

Some general thoughts on running presentations.

I think I’ve probably mentioned elsewhere that I’m not a big fan of being presented to, or presenting with PowerPoint/KeyNote slide decks. I find them utterly tedious to be subjected to, and I can only imagine that the receivers of mine (when I’ve done them) are thinking the same thing. Don’t get me wrong - I’ve also seen good presentation sets, but they’re often accompanied by strong presenters, who are engaging with their audience - and I suspect the good performance/experience is more delivered by the presenter than the presentation.

I much prefer an open and more engaging presentation around what I’m doing - often involving real technology, and real examples of how what I’m talking about can affect or improve the working environment of the people I’m presenting to. Seems obvious, but I personally find these sessions so much more involving than screen after screen of information.

The kind of presentations I do like, and often produce myself, are ones that tell a story of how/why/what my current offer can do for the audience. These I’ll often video through rather than talk through - it helps then open up the ongoing conversation. Also, due to the video format, it means they have to be relatively short and punchy.

IT Vendor Presentations - wow, they have the potential to be some of the most tedious out there. Certainly some of the most mind-numbing ones I’ve been to have been from some Tier-1 vendors. Slide after slide of information, while at the same time achieving the astounding accomplishment of actually teaching you nothing. A lot of vendor’s presentations also have an issue with differentiators - there aren’t any. Or rather, they use the same differentiators as everyone else, which of course paradoxically means there is
no differentiation.

Choose our company because:

  • Our product is AWESOMES (doesn’t everyone say that?)
  • We have a global reach (Sure, so does everyone else via partners)
  • We are about our PEOPLE and employ the best (As opposed to your competitors who set out not to employ the best)
  • Our service is the best in the industry
  • Safe pair of hands etc.

…I’m sure you can see my point! Having sat through more than my fair share of this type of presentation I’ve realised that the first 15-20 minutes is often the same presentation just with a different company name & product. Without
credibility and proof the above is just boring noise - there is no differentiation - it could be Any Company Anywhere.

The danger with such slide-heavy, similar-type presentations of course is that you lose your audience to thoughts about lunch, home-time etc. Once that’s started to happen it is incredibly hard to recover from, and to get the room interested in the message you’re trying to deliver.

Having a short-punchy slide deck to initiate discussions isn’t a bad thing - but content is absolutely important. It should be factual, and descriptive, and if you’re going to bang on about differentiators then for the love of not-having-people-fall-asleep-in-your-presentations, make sure they’re real differentiators.

I was thinking today about slide-driven presentations - the good ones - and why I found them a positive experience. Really, they’ve come down to:

  1. The quality of the presenter
  2. The quality of the presenter
  3. The quality of the presenter
  4. Relevant content
  5. Removal of periphery information

The last one is interesting. By periphery information I mean stuff that usually is not part of your core message (Oh we did this, that, the other) - they don’t work in slides. They add to bulk and remove the ‘punchy’, and yet absolutely do work when backing up a point via conversation.

There are of course valid uses for bigger slide-decks, but those times have to be incredibly well selected, and focused. There’s also of course the issue that not wanting to run with a slide-deck could just be a personal preference. I really quite enjoy presenting my ‘product’ as I think it’s an excellent technology set - and it’s one I know well - so I’m OK with dealing with what comes up in front of me around my subject. I’m also confident enough to be able push out stuff that I’m not able to deal with. What I mean is I’m not going to panic if things start to go off-piste so to speak, The real advantage of that of course is when there’s a difference in expectations between the expectations of the
receiver of the presentation, and the presenter!

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this sort of stuff. I have to present a lot - it’s something I really enjoy doing - but it’s very rarely presentation led.

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