Monday, June 15, 2009

It's what you say, not what it looks like...or is it?

Had a good old healthy ding-dong with a client this morning over how to structure a presentation. He's from the school of 'let's get all our charts together and weave a story around them'.

I come from the opposite school. For me, a good presentation is built on a good story. I like to work with the client to find out what outcome they want to achieve: who they're speaking to, what they want to say - and what they want people to hear. Most of all, it's about what they want their audience to do as a result of sitting through their presentation.

My preference is to script the presentation first and then find the right imagery to add power and amplification to the key messages. As a consequence, if an image, a chart or a sea of bullets aren't adding anything, they don't go in.
Far too often speakers put all the emphasis on making the slides look pretty rather than on what they actually have to communicate. And far too often the result is death by PowerPoint and a lost message.

So my client today sent me half a dozen PowerPoint presentations with the missive: 'Pull the key points out of each of these and weave them together into a coherent order...' - which frankly gave me pain through to my teeth.

So we backed and forthed over a few emails and a phone call and, like in all good business relationships, reached a compromise. We've now talked through the story and agreed the key points to communicate. I've got a sense of the audience and how the piece has to play with them - but I'm still expected to incorporate about 30 PowerPoint charts. I reckon people will absorb two or three, but that we'll need to use about seven images in total to underscore the messages.

Now we'll have a bit of an iterative process as I open with seven, he expects 30 and we'll each haggle our way to somewhere in between.

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