A little while back, I wrote a post called Your Slide Deck is Nothing But Risk. It’s caused a lot of discussion — in our workshops, in discussions with our clients, and in some of the social media where we spend time. It’s a premise that has cause a lot of people to furrow their brow, and think for a moment. (Mission accomplished!)
The quick summary of the previous post is that a slide deck on screen in front of a room full of colleagues/partners/customers is largely risk. Bad slides will hurt an otherwise good performance. Great slides will not save on otherwise bad performance. You need the slides to be good, yes. But the most important thing is that the slides be simple and clear, not contradict anything you are saying, and not get in the way of your discussion with your audience.
There were some great comments made in a LinkedIn group I participate in, and one contributor suggested that if I really believed what I was saying, I would advocate eliminating PowerPoint presentations all together. Fair point, but advocating that is not practical. As much as I think PowerPoint is misunderstood and misused, it is the standard tool for the business presentation, and there is a huge demand for it. In the large organizations where we spend time, it would be impractical to suggest we stop using it entirely. That’s just not happening any time soon.
So, if the tool is here to stay for the time being, then we all should be interested in doing it as well as we can. And my point is that part of doing it well is to understand that the speaker is the most important component, and the slides are secondary. And any good “back up singer” is going to reinforce the great experience of the lead singer, but is not going to either ruin the lead singer’s performance.
My point is especially true if you have skepticism in your room. The skeptic is looking for mistakes and inconsistencies. Don’t give them any!
Slides are important. They need to be done well. And doing them well isn’t really that hard. But don’t ever lose sight of the fact that the audience almost always is there to hear you speak, not read your slides. If the point was to simply read the slides, then distribute and end the meeting! Save us all some time. The key variable to your success is the story that you tell. And slides should reinforce that story.
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Photo: Ged Carroll