Most business professionals today need to have at least some basic skills in PowerPoint or some other presentation format. I know this because personally I am pretty lousy at creating attractive and interesting PPTs. The one thing I do keep in mind when creating a presentation is that less is more. Disappointingly there are too many incidences of people behaving badly when it comes to creating a compelling and cogent presentation using PowerPoint or any other format.
I acknowledge that slide presentations can serve many different purposes. There are times when detailed information within the presentation is important to support the points and conclusions being advanced. But if you see anything like what I see, the amount of information contained in one slide can be dizzying, overwhelming and consequently…BORING! (i.e. you lost me at hello).
Before the advent of PowerPoint the method in which most presentations were delivered was either a narrative, (today we seem to call them Whitepapers) when sent as a document, or, when presenting to a live audience, a flip chart that would contain only the bullet or higher level points of discussion.
Once PowerPoint became the default presentation platform, slide presentations began to devolve into grandiose, bloated, and self-serving documents intended to impress the crap out of whoever took the time to read it all (fewer people than you’d wish). It isn’t complicated as to why authors would want to have something both slick and detailed. I’m reminded of the schoolteachers that when giving a test would ask you to show your work. That’s what has occurred with so many slide presentations – they are made to show the work that went into it, instead of making easily understandable points that then would be supported by a narrative – written or oral.
Putting EVERYTHING you can think of to support your idea in the presentation actually does not make you look smarter or more thorough. Admit it, there’s a narcissistic quality to creating the ‘perfect deck’. But in doing so, you and your audience will miss the point. And the point is to clearly convey the concepts as clearly and simply as possible so the real work can begin.
As an amateur jazz pianist I learned early that being able to play lots and lots of notes with lush embellishments could show broader abilities and perhaps impress a few people. But the more important lesson I learned was the next one, which was – the real professionals know what to take out to make things both tasteful yet compelling.
Here’s my advice, try not to make your presentations look like the outfield fence at a minor-league baseball park. Your audience will appreciate it and more importantly follow it more closely without even realizing.