I guess I’m just like you. When that boring guy goes up to the podium and starts that cursed program, I take a quick glance at the number of slides and sighs. Oh my G*d. Given all the stupid warnings in Microsoft Office applications, why is there no warning when you exceed the 10 slides marker:
“You just created your 10th slide. Will you really want to risk boring of your viewers?”
Cancel should be the default option.
So it’s no wonder that this is Dilbert’s view of the cloud:
We all love to hate those who love PowerPoint. Or as someone wise said: “With PowerPoint it has never been easier not getting to the point”.
But one important question is: Was it really better before? Were presentations really better on the OH-projector? I remember one of my College professors, bringing a hockey trunk to classes. He gave classes at many places in Sweden and he took all his material with him in the form of plastic sheets from the 1970’s and forward.
I guess that an added problem is that you can run out of plastic sheets but you cannot run out of slides, but I think that is besides the point. There were bad presentations before the curse of PowerPoint struck us, and there are still bad presentations.
So what can we do? In 7 habits we talk about Habit 1: Be proactive. This means that if you have a problem, you decide if you’re going to do something about and then you do. The other option is to stop caring. So, if you cannot drop your distaste for the lousy, uninteresting presentations in your life, you can choose to do A, B or why not both.
A. Give better presentations ourselves.
B. Give feedback to people giving presentations which could be better.
In both cases, you need to focus on the Point. The point the presenter is trying to make. Set that as the objective and just add the slides/information which leads to that Point. Cut the rest. If you have the privilege to work with A, your own presentation, this is easy. You know which point you’re trying to make and you can look at each slide to see if it gives more value to the viewer, trying to understand the point. And afterwards, ask for feedback. What helped and what didn’t? Explain that you’re trying to improve your presentation skills.
When it comes to B, it’s harder (at least for me) since it involves negative feedback. Again, 7 habits helps us with a template. If you’ve experienced a bad presentation and you think that the person giving it has the capacity to improve, you should help. “In your presentation X resulted in Y for me.” This is not an absolute template since it has to be applicable to the presentation. But here are some examples:
“When you showed slides 3-10, that really got me confused. I think I would have understood the problem better if you’d focused more on slide 11 which summed it up nicely.”
But don’t forget the positive feedback. There are many good presenters out there and I must say we are not praising them enough.
Remember the Dilbert strip. There are two monkeys, one is talking and the other one is listening. Which one are you?
Before I read Made To Stick, I prepared a presentation for a strategic group within my company. I was rather satisfied with content but after having read Made To Stick I realized that I needed to focus on my main objective. Directly, I cut 2/3 of the slides and then I shifted the order so you could really follow the red thread. Yes, I missed out on some important findings but if these were not coming through: what would be the point of spending time on them.
The inspiration for the new flow revolved around a specific concept and I was so happy about this: it really made sense to me. But I wasn’t pleased. I went through the presentation with my husband and he didn’t think the part surrounding the concept made sense.
Giving it some more thought I realized that presenting the actual concept which inspired me to make the presentation was clogging it: since the content now covered the concept it was just unnecessary cosmetics. The message came through anyway. So, I cut my baby loose and there I has one of the shortest presentations I’ve ever made. Few words and few slides.
The result was staggering: we spent 1,5 hours discussing 5 slides. One of the participants said that they were spoiling the presentation. I countered and said I was not giving a presentation, I was participating in a discussion. One of the most giving discussions in my professional career. Simple magic.
So, now I’m going to take the Easter off, thinking about these findings. I’ve even done all my exercise for this week, so the running gear will stay at home for the weekend. The computer will remain turned off and since my phone is still broken, I’ll be really off line.
So, happy Easter, and think about hosting discussions instead of giving presentations…