Death by PowerPoint

We’ve all been in a situation where a leader, a team or a vendor kicks off a massive tsunami of a presentation.  It is a never-ending story of slides, words graphs, and images.  After the first 15 slides, it becomes a rather repetitive event and it can be hard to focus.  The message gets lost in the PowerPoint horror show.

Even worse, we might have created an epic story in PowerPoint ourselves, to promote a project or business justification, only to realize that it was 40 slides.  We have created a monster that we feared and joke about.

Death by PowerPoint!

PowerPoint is an excellent and powerful tool, to convey a message and update.  It is not a tool to elaborate on detailed events and should be used more like a set of storyboards helping you during a presentation.  Each slide should give the viewer a good idea of what the message is and enough information for the presenter to tell the story.

PowerPoint is a visual aid that a presenter uses when presenting their option, ideas, sales pitch, etc.  Slides should not be too wordy and concentrate on adding basic bullet points.

Before creating a set of slides, you should assess the message you want to covey, and if PowerPoint is the right media to deliver the message.

You also need to look at the target audience to gauge how much or how little detail you need to include in your slides.

For senior management, you want to keep it to 5-7 slides to deliver the core message.  Any other details can be added as an appendix, and covered if you have time.

For regular project team updates, you might want to only want to present 2-3 slides, enough to show status, risks, financials and next steps.

Create a supporting Word document to share with the audience, if you need to provide more detailed information.

I recently presented the 2020 IT Strategy to the board and wanted to use PowerPoint. I had been informed that the board will be engaged, but also switch off if the slides were too busy and no clear story.

This meant I really had to focus on the core messages and I drafted my storyboard on a notepad.  Yes, you read right, a note pad.  Sometimes old school works better and means you don’t have to do all the design work until you are ready to create your wonders.

While preparing the slides, I went through 8 versions, and during each review, I removed slides and compressed content to fewer lines. I went from 38 slides to 21 slides, which is still a lot, but I also had to cover the current budget, team restructuring, FY20 plans, and security.

Each area is big topics as standalone slides, so while it was a lot of slides, I used them to present my story – and the board appreciated the length and the presentation.  Very good interaction with board members during and after my overview.

NOTE – I would recommend that you always rehearse, and several times.  When rehearsing you will find errors and sections that do not flow well, and then you will adjust accordingly.

Moral of the story – don’t just throw a few slides together.  Think about the story you want to share and your objectives of presenting, and plan your slides.  It will provide a much better outcome.

Any tips you want to share?


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