I have always encouraged my clients to pay more attention to their presentation – as witnessed by my workshops on the subject and my ActionMails adventure www.thefulleffect.com/actionmails of a few years back.  Along the way, I’ve dabbled in mailable PowerPoint presentations and more sophsticated Flash presentations, mailed, streamed and downloaded from e-mailed links.  However, I’ve been getting back to basics with my clients lately and focssing on the use of PowerPoint in the office environment – simply because, despite the likes of Simon Morton and me batting on about it since time began, I still keep finding people who just don’t get it!Life was breathed into my current state of peek when, the other day someone handed me a “proposal” that was a print-out of a deck of PowerPoint slides.  “Great!” I said, “do you have a document to support this?” to which they replied with a truly baffled expression “That’s it”.  Well I have news for you my friend – it isn’t it!  Not by a long way, and if you think you can make your point with a bunch of printed out slides you a) haven’t grasped the basics of selling an idea, b) don’t understand how to present c) certainly don’t understand what PP is for and d) you’re probably lazy into the bagain!

In case you aren’t getting my drift yet let me explain.  The essential for making a business case – that’s any kind of case from inceasing the budget for boardroom biscuits to investing in an new franchise – is a document.  That’s pages of close text, maybe supported by diagrams or charts, that explain every detail of your proposal and its business merits.  If its a face-to-face presentation or video conferencing a smidgen of personality is also useful, but, hey, that hasn’t held Bill Gates back, so if you are a genuine boring fart you’ll have learned to live with it by now and so will everyone else, so don’t embarrass yourself by trying to be Jeremy Clarkson!  If you are presenting this to a room of more than six or eight people you’ll maybe find a PowerPoint presentation useful.  If there are fewer there’s absolutely no need.

A PowerPoint presentation is a set of slides, each with a chart, a single short statement or an absolute maximum of six bullet points and a heading.  That’s one or the other, not all three (Why do so many people see a PP project as a challenge to cram War and Peace onto twenty slides?).  Its dual purpose is to remind you of what you are supposed to be saying and to emphasise key points to your audience.  If you know your stuff (and there’s the rub for a lot of people) you’ll use the bullet points to launch your dialogue, elaborating with the details that your audience will read later in the document.  And that’s the way it works.  PowerPoint will never be a replacement for a document, although I do sometimes throw hard copies of my slides into the appendices at the back of a document.

The bad news for freeloaders, is that every presentation requires a document and for many you’ll need both a document and a PowerPoint presentation, but believe me, the situation will never arise where you only need PowerPoint.  Sure, its more work – that’s the job, get used to it!  Besides, when I have a “PowerPoint Document” dumped on me, I tend to take the view, if the person isn’t smart or committed enough to sell the idea properly they are hardly likely to be smart or committed enough to have come up with a worthwhile idea in the first place!  Mostly I don’t look at them.

While we are on the subject, don’t you also just love these people who add cartoon characters and jokey animations too!  I used to know a German head of an organisation who thought that he was being really kick-ass by adding all this crap.  He used to press the button on his Bluetooth remote with a flurish and swell with self congratulation as he revealed his first animated giff or sound effect of the meeting.  Apart from the fact that his lack of imagination in sourcing of material instantly destroyed his street cred, you have to remember that humour is subjective.  What may have made his Bavarian drinking buddies split their sides down the BierKeller, in the boardroom usually made him look a bit of a pratt!

Michael Weaver
December 11, 2007

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