Hi, my name is Rob and I’m a presentation abuser.
In fact, I’ve been using presentation software for decades. I used a great product called Astound by Gold Disk in the 90s that did animation way before anything out of Redmond had those features. I speak fluid PowerPoint and have seen, and done, the best and the worst with it. But, now I need to own up and share some of the worst practices that organizations do every day, and could change if they just paid a little attention and put in some effort.
PowerPoint is a Backdrop, not a Movie
This is rampant throughout nearly every sales presentation. Presenters create slides that are like a Microsoft Word document that take the attention of the viewer away from where it should be…the speaker! Think of the presentations of Steve Jobs as a great example. There Steve is on a stage and behind him is a giant picture of an iPhone™, or iPad™, or iBuilding™, or iGrandmother™. The image is the frame, but what Steve is saying is the art.
99% of the time words on a slide are a crutch. Learn the content. Learn the story. Learn to walk without the crutch.
Presentation Deck or Training Deck. Pick one.
The reason that many sales presentation decks in particular are long, wordy messes is that Marketing departments use them to primarily train sales people. I’ve seen this in company after company. While some “Sales Decks” have good notes on each slide with talking points they are usually ineffective. The reason why is that they are either long paragraphs that people don’t want to read, scripted words that Sales people won’t use, or in the best case, bullet points of specifically created important talking points that will most likely be ignored.
A better practice is to only create a high impact, highly graphical deck that is used by people to present the topic. Avoid creating any deck that includes slides that could be easily pulled into an audience facing deck. If you need to create a script, put it in a PDF document with images of the slides from the highly graphical deck. In short, make it harder for people to do the wrong thing, and easier for them to take the right path.
At Least Learn to Use the Tool Correctly
I’ve worked with brilliantly creative people that occasionally drove me crazy. As a Marketing professional you are in the 1-to-many business. Everything that you create will be used, viewed or reused by hopefully dozens to millions of people. Always create with an eye to how people will reuse your stuff. In the world of PowerPoint, that means templating.
I have friends that refuse to use templating and approach every slide as if it was a Picasso painting. They lay it out beautifully and artistically, and it does look great. However, they will be sending out their brilliant work to the great unwashed that will grab three slides from this deck, seven from another, and drop it something from a Google search to fill out their ideas. Without using templating each slide will have to be hand adjusted…or most likely won’t…to look consistent.
I understand that templates limit creativity, but then learn how to create some interesting templates and make everyone’s life easier downstream. Granted, if you just have a picture of iGrandmother™ on the screen you won’t need much in the way of templating, but there will be a time for words that can’t be avoided.
Rules to Live By
PowerPoint is a necessary evil for most people. Personally, I would prefer to see its use minimized to make presenters focus more on their communications skills and storytelling, but even a Broadway show needs a set.
Robert is a speaker coach, actor, director, author, speaker, executive and overall marketing guy. He writes about all aspects of presenting and connecting with audiences.