In this article, you'll learn...
- The recipe for delivering a knockout presentation
- How PowerPoint presentations can hurt your objectives
- How to persuade people to take action
Right now, in countless hotel meeting rooms, public auditoriums, corporate conference rooms, and small, cramped offices, thousands of competent and otherwise productive executives, managers, and salespeople are quietly snoring and drooling on expensive notepads.
They sleep because some poor consultant, vendor, partner, or other supplicant is hiding in the dark behind a data projector, "telling them what he's going to tell them, telling them, and then telling them what he told them," with every word emblazoned on the screen.
"Now, wait a minute," I hear you saying. "What's wrong with good-ol' PowerPoint? I mean, PowerPoint's got your situational templates, your automatic color schemes, your animation, your sound effects..."
Hey, I'm not saying you can't do cool things with presentation graphics. I'm just saying that's not how you get results as a business communicator. And, OK, it's not Microsoft's fault that PowerPoint is the ubiquitous presentation graphics program on the market. Well, it is Microsoft's fault, but not its fault that it costs the US economy billions of dollars.
PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Docs presentations, among others, are all equally capable of robbing a communicator of his value and ability to connect with people. But the point remains that most business presentations don't work. Yes, deals are made; and, yes, sometimes they're made in close proximity to PowerPoint presentations. But the vast majority of those deals happen despite the presentation, not because of it.
Case in point: Way back in the days of the "dot-com bubble," a prominent IPO-churning investment bank asked me to assess the presentation materials it used to pursue private companies for M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and IPO (initial public offering) underwriting. The "right pitch" (or so the investment bank reasoned) could bring in millions for the firm with a single win, but competition was fierce with numerous banks offering virtually identical opportunities.
The bank's PowerPoint pitch droned for nearly 80 pages about the company's great history and achievements. Those presentations sometimes lasted three and a half hours. When trying to convince this company that its unique ability to create value had nothing to do with its corporate history and everything to do with how it was going to meet the unique needs of this prospect, I felt like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
Not surprisingly, the investment bank, unable to shift its focus away from itself and onto the needs of its clients, became a victim of the economy's dramatic downturn. Equally unfortunate, the addiction to PowerPoint-driven, self-absorbed presentations is alive and well today.
However, the good news is that you have an opportunity for differentiation by using a less formulaic approach.