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Never Trust A PowerPoint Expert
By: Don McLean
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What makes someone a PowerPoint expert?

Nothing. Mostly it is self-proclamation. Millions of presentations are created and given each year in PowerPoint, but how many are effective? How many have a clear goal that is translated well into a cohesive and effective presentation? It is not clear if we will ever get these numbers.

Usually when someone proclaims to be a PowerPoint expert it means you now have more work to do to fix the presentation before it is presented to the client. Case in point: In the final step of an RFP process, we were to give a presentation sharing our value proposition with the potential client. The presentation was blocked for a two-hour time window with time for a question and answer session. The “PowerPoint Expert” went straight to building the deck of 67 action-unpacked slides. Many of the slides had text in full sentences and were to be read word-for-word. The expert-created slides made me want to slide under the table. What is worse, in an attempt to include more charts and drawings, smart graphics were used. It is important to point out that smart graphics are only as smart as the person putting them together. They not only differentiated from our color scheme but they modified the graphics in such as way that that they were corrupt. In the end I was the one doing as much as I could to clean them up before presentation day. We did not secure that work.

The PowerPoint may not have completely been to blame for not winning the work but it plays a more significant role than one may realize. The key thing to remember is this is your first deliverable for a new client. It delivers your brand's image and value.

There are tons of articles on best practices on how best to create a presentation. Similarly, there are at least twice as many articles and media on what not to do in creating a PowerPoint presentation. That is not the goal of this article. The goal is to recognize the importance of PowerPoint as a medium of story. In The Art of The Pitch, Peter Coughter does it better than anyone in explaining on how best to give a presentation. One key point that sticks out is not to start out going straight to the deck to put the slides together. Think about what you want to audience to take away first. Know specifically what they are interested in and then figure out the best way to convey it. Sometimes, you may not even need a PowerPoint.

What presentation formatting nightmares have you seen? What would you do differently? 

Here is a funny-but-true video to better illustrate these points by comedian Don McMillan called Life After Death by PowerPoint. Watch it here.



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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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