Thursday, November 19, 2009

Power Point Punch Up

The following article was publish in Med Ad News --

Over the years, it has become fashionable to criticize PowerPoint for making agency presentations long and boring. But PowerPoint does not make for boring presentations. Bad presenters make presentations boring. Let’s think about the components of a boring presentation and address them individually.
Too much data, not enough story is one common flaw. The slide deck is not supposed to be a comprehensive explanation of your presentation. The slide deck is a visual aid. The slide show is supposed to aid the presenter in delivering her message to the audience. Never lose sight of the fact that the presenter is the compelling component of the presentation, not the deck. If the deck were the compelling component, we would simply e-mail the deck to the audience and not have to fly half way across the country to make a presentation.
But wait you say, “The deck is our leave behind. We need a comprehensive leave behind in case someone misses our presentation.” It is true that if you take information off of the deck, it will no longer be your comprehensive leave behind. If you have to choose between a comprehensive leave behind and a solid presentation that helps instead of hinders the presenter, always choose the latter. In the history of advertising, no one has ever won a pitch because they had the best leave behind, but plenty of people have lost pitches because their presentations were painfully boring.
But wait you say, “…I want all of the information on the screen in case our junior person forgets something.” When you have all of the information on the screen and the junior person is forced to just read the slide, that person is offering no value to the audience. The audience could just as easily read the slide themselves. It is as if a really smart person wrote the slide, and then gave it to this (not so smart person) to present. You would be better off if they missed a point or two but remembered a few points that are not on the slide. The solution is to write the slide with all of the content so that the junior person can get the content down. After they understand the content, remove some of the points (typically sub-bullets) so that they can look smart at the pitch. If they miss a point or two, don’t worry about it. The goal is for them to look smart in front of the client, not for them to remember every point.
But wait you say, “PowerPoint slides can be so boring with a sea of bullet points.” It is not a mandate that slide shows are dominated by bullets. Mix it up a bit. Some bullets, some pictures, some video. If you are no longer worried about getting every last bit of text on the slide, it frees you up to be much more creative with slide composition. The one thing to avoid is clip art. Most clients expect their advertising agency to be able to come up with something more creative than clip art.
So we have addressed some issues in PowerPoint that are more a function of the user than the software, but that doesn’t mean that PowerPoint is the ultimate in presentation tools. Keynote is rapidly gaining acceptance in the new business world, but it has at least one pretty big flaw. Since not everyone at the agency uses Keynote, agencies tend to rely on their Keynote specialist for making every little change to the deck. This creates a significant bottleneck in the development of the presentation. This can create a severe limitation, all for the promise of marginally prettier slide shows.
I have seen circumstances where the deck was written in PowerPoint and then given to the Keynote specialist to convert. This method avoided the bottleneck problem, but then the team practiced with PowerPoint and did not receive the Keynote deck until the eleventh hour. Presentation teams are probably better off presenting with PowerPoint if that is what they rehearsed with. When Keynote is widely used throughout the agency, it will be a great tool for presentations, but in the meantime, it creates as many problems as it solves.
Boards and flip charts are another presentation tool that are making a comeback after years of PowerPoint use. Boards and flip charts have some distinct advantages over presentation software. The biggest advantage is that because boards require production time, they require a “pencils down” time. Presentation software’s promise of a perfect presentation can lure staff into never ending tweaks to the deck, even in the cab ride to the pitch. This type of last minute thinking certainly makes the presentation different but rarely makes it better. The last minute tweaks always raise the level of tension on the team, which is a recipe for disaster.
Just like presentation software, boards have some legendary issues of their own. Production snafus and size are the two biggest issues. If you have done new business long enough, you know what I am talking about.
Regardless of the presentation tool you decide to use, never lose sight of the fact that the presenter is the single most compelling part of the presentation. If the presenter is the key, then make sure everything in your new business presentation is designed to make the presenter more compelling.

Mark Schnurman
Pitch Consultant


  1. Very convincing article on power point presentations!Truly said, it is not PPT but the presenter who makes the presentations boring! The flip charts make the presentations more interesting!

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  2. I've been through your entire blog! I think you're probably sick of all the comments I left you by now :)

    I was just hoping you would publish an article on what are the key elements that should be included in the pitch deck? There is so much debate on this & I've tried finding the answers myself, but I would appreciate getting a response from you. What should the pitch presentation include?


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