Sunday, June 12, 2011

Let’s Click Off PowerPoint

Yes, PowerPoint serves as a competent visual aid to convey your meaning at meetings, but it's tedious for speakers and boring for audiences. Pro or con?

Pro: Sliding into a Coma

If you bombard meeting attendees with too much information and read from way too many drab slides, they won't be able to absorb the points you want to make. Most presenters lean on PowerPoint as a crutch rather than use it for what it's intended—a broad framework or outline of a presentation rather than an assault of text on a slide.

There's a clear way to focus a meeting and make your desired impact without slides. Knowing your audience in order to be relevant, having a dialogue rather than a one-way broadcast, and ending with no more than three core messages are keys to success. I start many customer meetings or presentations by giving an overview of the general direction of the conversation and asking questions to confirm what attendees want to get out of the meeting.

Once I understand their side of the story, I rely heavily on relevant analogies and storytelling to make what I'm saying relatable to their own pain points. And, in the end, I reinforce my three key messages so when the presentation wraps, the audience is left with the main takeaways. We forget the time-tested presentation rule of "Tell them what you're going say, tell them, then tell them what you told them." This trumps PowerPoint any day.

Con: Compelling When Used Properly

As the CEO of a startup company that targets global retailers and brands, I find it crucial to be able to run virtual meetings with staff members or prospective clients. The key is knowing how to avoid the kind of PowerPoint misuse that causes everyone's eyes to glaze over. The application's bad reputation comes not because of a flaw with the tool but rather because of the lack of skill of the user. Many speakers are ignorant of the fact that a 50-slide presentation won't get anything but complaints and grief. Essentially, the message is lost in the size of the deck.

PowerPoint will most certainly evolve as a meetings tool. Recently, the export-to-PDF function has become my new favorite functionality. We're using it to draft one-pagers and even brochures, and not worrying about sharing decks that will be misused.

Where do I see PowerPoint in 2020? We'll be able to have a much richer experience in meetings with more multimedia functionality added. The long and short of it is that PowerPoint is here to stay.

Thanks to Ken Powell, Micro Focus / Ji Kim, DiJiPOP / Bloomberg L.P. / Businessweek


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