30 June 2005

Slides Aside

A few days ago The Jenius was asked to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a start-up project. Like a bad weed, PowerPoint has become ubiquitous, the central part of just about every presentation made in the Western Hemisphere. And despite its frequent use, almost all PowerPoint presentations create partial vacuums as if from titanic aspirators.

In other words, they suck bigtime.

The problem with PowerPoint is that the average user decides what s/he will talk about, then divides the material into "slide-sized" pieces, decorates the slides with colorful background and images, adds sounds, animation and movement and then proceeds to bore the living daylight out of the audience by READING THE SLIDES.

Spare me.

For one, practically everyone can read faster than the speaker can recite. For two, once We grasp the speaker is a "reader," We'd much rather read than listen. For three, We feel insulted that the speaker has eschewed that role in favor of the role of "reader," making no real effort to expand the material beyond what's slapped onto a slide.

The problem lies, of course, with the deceptive "ease" that PowerPoint creates. "Hey, I can make slides! With colors! Look! This one spirals in and makes a quacking sound! This is great! Let me see if this one can dance the tango and shoot stars!" Plenty of razzmatazz, no real value added. The focus is on style while substance is cast aside.

You see the point now. Lousy ideas in colorful slides are like gift-wrapped rotten meat. The impact of PowerPoint and "Title--3 bullets--next slide" chopsockey presentations has justifiably waned. Unless the content has true value and is presented so that the value is preserved, then enhanced by the methodology used, the overall effectiveness of these exercises will continue to drop. The mediocre and stupid will seek out more color, movement and sounds; the smart, visionary ones will sit back and think deeply about their content.

What happened with The Jenius' presentation? It came out to 12 slides, only text, with no slide having more than 50 words on it. It began at the client's key question, answered it and ended at another--stronger--answer to the same key question. It narrated a solution, told a story of progress and success, answered all the expected questions...and was never shown. The client took the 2-page, 6-slide per page handout, read it and initialed it.

He bought the project based on a text-only, two-page slide handout. Total prep time for the slides: under 20 minutes.

Total planning time for the slides: About 7 hours. Maybe 8.

Sounds like The Jenius is tooting His Own horn? Damn right I am.

Sounds like a lot of work? It isn't. That same handout is being used by the client to get others on board, slashing project development time from months to weeks--maybe even days. It has definitely reduced our start-up costs at least 40% and may even reduce them to the point where the entrepreneurs are getting paid to launch the project.

Which is harder work: creating a powerful value-based presentation that sells itself or creating subdivided drivel that forces you to sell it over and over and over and over again?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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