A Real-Life Example of the Risk Your PowerPoint Slides Hold

We had a fascinating conversation with a workshop participant last week. He shared a real story, about a presentation he gave soon after he joined his current company. He worked hard at it, he prepared, and he was nervous, but ready. He made the presentation, it seemed to go OK, and then afterwards he asked for feedback.

He pulled aside one of his new colleagues, a mentor of sorts, and asked, “How did it go?” He was hoping for and expecting to hear feedback on substance. But instead, what he got was, “You used the wrong shade of blue on your slides.”

Seriously… that was the sole feedback. You used the wrong blue. Not a thing about substance, about the proposal, about the data. Only about the color blue.

This story would be comical if it were not true and all too common. We hear it all the time, from many of our client companies. All too often, the focus of feedback for slide decks quickly degrades into font, font size, color scheme… the look and feel of the slides. Not the substance.

But this problem, while perhaps annoying, is both typical inside most large companies, and entirely avoidable. This kind of story is an “unforced error” on the part of the presenter. Why? Because if there is such a culture within the organization, and the presenter does not compensate accordingly by simply using the “correct shade of blue” then the presenter created that problem on his own.

So the point today is simple… If there is a template that you are expected to use, follow it, strictly and religiously. Otherwise, you risk a reaction from the more “detail oriented” members of your audience to get distracted by the wrong things. Honestly, there are people out there, lots of them, who live for the moment when they can nitpick some little detail on your slides, some little mistake. So let’s not give those people anything to chirp at.

The bottom line is that slides represent a major risk for the speaker, a topic we have written about before. Let’s reduce the risk by not opening the door to someone to nitpick the wrong things. Instead, if we are careful about the look and the feel, then it is far more likely that the conversation will remain on the substance of the discussion. Which is exactly where we want it to be.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.