Thursday, May 16, 2013

Powerpoint Addiction: A Symptom of Global ADD

 A picture is worth a thousand words.  That doesn’t mean you need 1000 works per slide!

Many companies are addicted to Powerpoint.  Yes, addicted.  Whether for internal or external audiences meetings revolve around passing the projector cable back and forth so “speakers” can show their slides.  How many of us have asked the question, “can I get a copy of the slides?”  Similarly, how many people will read even a two page WORD document, unless it’s a list of bullets?

As stated in a previous post, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a global phenomenon.  That’s not going to change and will likely accelerate.  Hence the need to think in term of the billboard metaphor also stated in a previous post. 

The problem is not with Powerpoint itself, it’s with the slide creators.  Powerpoint is quite powerful and overtime has eliminated the need for Photoshop for many simple functions.   There are many issues affecting the quality of a slide and of the presentation.   Time being a main issue.  To create truly amazing slides takes a lot of time to both learn the software and to create each individual slide.   A large company I worked for would outsource the actual slide creation.  This would cost upwards of $5000 per slide!  Yes per slide.   The slides were truly amazing.   Yet, the average .PPT file grew from 5Mbytes to 20Mbytes in 5 years.   

Another main issue is the purpose of the presentation is often forgotten.   The art of storytelling is becoming a lost art.  With the above noted slides being “so good” people would naturally reuse them.  Their presentation would then be made up of beautiful slides from a number of presentations.  The problem being that there was enormous amount of redundancy from slides to slide.   For example, slide 1 would make points A, B and C.   Slide 2 would make points B, C and D.  Slide 3 would make points C, D and E, etc.    Since the slides were so good and complex no one would want to alter them.   The result were long presentations that wandered making the story line hard to follow and comprehend.

How many have seen the following slide deck:

Slide 1:  Logo, title, name and date
Slide 2: Overview of company and/or presenter
Slide 3:   

If you have, you know you immediately experienced shock and awe.   Here the presenter didn't follow the basic rules of storytelling.    There was no lead in or build up to the punch line.  How many jokes are funny if you only tell the punch line?  Presenters need to understand that while you have prepared for the meeting your audience hasn't.   They've come from another meeting or another activity and need to be grounded in your discussion.  If they don’t understand or don’t know the joke they certainly won’t get the punch line.

The lemma to this problem is when the presenter spends too much time building up the punch line.  Slide after slide of “market data”, “industry trends” and other “look how smart I am” slides will quickly have your audience checking their email.   It’s true to assume that your audience doesn't know the subject as well as you do, but don’t assume they’re complete moron’s either. 

Two last points for this post.  One, does anyone actually care about the number of slides?  Some slides may only be on the screen for 10 seconds as a segue or for re-grounding.  Some slide may be on the screen for 10 minutes to illustrate (simply I hope) a complex concept.   It’s about telling a story.

Two, how often do you linearly deliver a slide show from start to finish in a lecture mode.  Yes, there are time such as when giving an actual lecture or presenting at a conference.   However, many times your slides are there to stimulate a conversation.  A really good slide regardless of the visual quality could be one that you leave on the screen for 30 minutes and use as a reference.   Presenters, learn to "zig and zag".  Know your slides well enough where you can jump back and forward to keep the conversation flowing.  Combine that with good meeting management skills and you will rock.  

Give me a shout if you'd like to discuss.

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