Every day, in every office around the world, employees enter a meeting room and know that they will be taken as hostages for hours by the one and only master of the corporate world: Power Point.
I am sure that many of us work or have worked in big companies. How long did you take to realize that at the very core of office life there is a software to make slides?
In the corporate world everything turns around presentations: we prepare presentations, we give presentations… we are experts in presentations. Or not? In these years I have seen hundreds of presentations, an incredible number of slides – but they are generally many Points under the Power level. The three elements that I think we often get wrong in corporate presentations are content, structure and hierarchy.
Slides or handouts?
How much content shall you slides contain? The answer of a reasonable person: a limited quantity in each slide, not to distract our audience from what we are going to tell. What I see happening in most of presentations at work: as much as you can. Even if it means writing in font size 6 and filling every possible space on the page. Most of times, the slides I see include all the content of the presentation, in case they have to be sent out to someone who can’t participate to the meeting. This is the extreme paradox: we prepare slides not for the people who will listen to the presentation, but for the ones who eventually won’t even show up.
The first rule of slides: you do not talk about slides
The structure of a speech or presentation is vital for the audience to follow the flow. Still, a having clear structure doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to mark each and every transition with an explicit sentence. In my next slide you will see this, this picture explains the message of my presentation. Are you sure it is explaining it so well, if you need to tell what it is explaining? You are not making a transition because the slides say so. If they are functional to your message and complementary to your speaking, there will be no need of mentioning the slides at all. Just let them flow in the background.
Message first, slide (maybe) after
Which are the main elements of your presentation? You have something you want your audience to hear (a message), a person to talk about it (a presenter) and then the supporting material (slides). In this order. But when we have someone to speak at a meeting, we usually ask them to prepare a certain number of slides. Instead, the focus of the presentation, the reason why the audience is there – is the message. Then, it comes the presenter, the face of the message, the expert in the topic. And this ends the list of the necessary elements. The slides should remain where they belong: in the reign of the unnecessary. As I have written already in the past, before you prepare visual aids, ask yourself if you really need them. If your message is clear even without slides, you can avoid them.
In corporate world we live a perpetuous struggle between brain and pointer; content and small fonts; message and slides. Visual aids can be help to convey your message, but it’s important to remember that your spoken words are more important than the written text. It’s your speech that builds the flow of the slides, that are only a support tool: you and your message are the crucial element.
(Image by Alex Litvin on Unsplash)