The Case for the Defense
PowerPoint is a Tool - Not a Process.
PowerPoint is a tool.
Michael: “We’ll ask PowerPoint.”
Oscar: “Michael, this is a presentation tool.”
Michael: “You’re a presentation tool…”.
Michael Scott & Oscar Martinez
(The Office, Season 4 – Episode 4, “Money”)
PowerPoint, as a tool, really isn't so bad.
It is basically a blank canvas. The slide paradigm of PowerPoint/Keynote and other presentation tools is a very useful one for business communication. When leveraged properly, the structure inherent in slides is an effective means of communicating ideas. The mixture of text and visuals that PowerPoint is designed to deliver allows us to communicate directly to both visual and non-visual thinkers.
But learning to craft a powerful presentation, and then to successfully present it, is more than filling out a PowerPoint template. And it can be a challenge.
The challenge arises from the multi-disciplinary nature of creating and delivering a great presentation. It demands of us high-level skills across a great breadth of disciplines. Design skills (taste!), storytelling skills, data literacy and numeracy, structured thinking, passion and charisma; to name a few.
To successfully harness this set of disciplines requires a process.
In the SlideHeroes course we teach a 4-step process for creating a presentation:
- The WHO: Identify who your audience is (thinking deeply about who really makes decisions, how they make them, how they like to consume information etc.)
- The WHY: Determine why you are speaking with your audience. In nearly all cases this is to answer a question the audience has. Your job is to frame this question, and then answer it.
- The What: Determine what your answer is to the question your audience has. This is the meat and potatoes of your presentation. This is your compelling, flawlessly constructed argument.
- The HOW: Decide how best to communicate and deliver this argument.
We need a process.
We prepare for speeches, not business updates.
The vast majority of PowerPoint presentation how-to books, seminars, and courses focus on the moment we stand-up in front of the crowd and deliver our speech.
The problem with this is that we are usually sitting down.
Garr Reynolds has coined the term 'slideument' to describe what he believes is the unnatural combination of slides and documents.
Slides are slides.
Documents are documents.
They aren't the same thing. Attempts to merge them result in what I call the "slideument" (slide + document = slideument).
Garr Reynolds, Best-selling Author of PresentationZen
This line of reasoning assumes you are designing for a talk. A 'conference room' speech.
How many speeches to 20+ people did you give last year? I am lucky to give one or two (they are fun, but uncommon).
The reality for most non-sales professionals is that the PowerPoint 'presentations' we create and give are usually to small groups of people.
We are not standing up, there is no auditorium. We might have several of these a week (or a day!). They are project updates, report deliverables, investment recommendations, performance evaluations.
They are focused on detail, data, and deep content. Our noses are a foot or two from the presentation. We require high fidelity, not conference style TED Talks.
The context of business meetings (small groups, detail focused) has a profound effect on the style of the presentation we need to give.