In today's business world, PowerPoint is the default program for business communications. If something is important, it's in a PowerPoint deck.

Unfortunately, however, those decks are created in a haphazard manner: one presentation at a time, with little thought given to the long-term value of the content within them—and the risks associated with mismanaging that content.

Yet, systematically managing your company's presentation content can unleash the valuable information hidden within all of those decks, while instituting controls that ensure message compliance. And, in the process, the quality of presentations for everyone in your enterprise will improve greatly.

Improving PowerPoints starts before you open the deck, and it is done most effectively by implementing a presentation management strategy

Such a strategy will empower members of your team, helping them to make better—more convincing and effective—presentations, ultimately resulting in more productive meetings.

Let's look at three components of presentation management: creating, saving, and presenting content.

1. Creating Content

Most companies have brand guidelines, but those guidelines don't necessarily make it into individual presentations. In addition to PowerPoint templates with proper logo and brand graphics, it's important to include messaging guidelines.

Many presentations incorporate the same boilerplate information, such as company history, product information, etc., which gets re-created and re-used all the time. So make sure there is one, best, professionally written version that incorporates your company's brand, tone, and language.

By doing so, you will not only empower your sales team to speak intelligently about the various aspects of your company's business but also save them from countless wasted hours and frustration from having to fumble around preparing new decks—essentially, re-inventing the wheel—for every meeting.

2. Saving Content in a Slide Library

Create a slide library: Assign a location or a worksite—or subscribe to a presentation management service—that's really, really easy for your team to access and use. This is where you will store all of your best content: branded, on message, legally compliant.

The slide library should not merely include content that your team members need so they can do their job every day; it should also "visualize" the content so users can easily identity the slide or file they are looking for. Obviously, the library should include PowerPoint decks, but also PDF, video, image, Word, and Excel files as well.

Let your team know where and how to access the library, and keep the content updated. Often, marketing departments go to great lengths for an initiative like a slide library, only to have it die out slowly. Publish and update regularly to ensure that the content evolves with your business.

When you provide easy access to the best content, you enable everyone—whether newly hired junior associates or the EVP of Sales—to talk intelligently and effectively about the company's products and services. Everyone is empowered to do better.

3. Presenting

For some, public speaking is terrifying. (OK, I'll admit: They are probably not going into sales.) But, even for the most extroverted person, giving a presentation can be stressful: You have a limited window to not only make a great impression but also convince, sell, and motivate people to act favorably.

Formal training programs, speaking coaches, and practice will improve your presentation skills. Furthermore, apps and other technological tools can serve as a discreet coach during your presentation: They can provide speaker notes, comments, reference materials, and other assistance to ensure that your presentation is relevant and polished—and, above all, that it engages your audience.

The Advantages of Presentation Management

In its simplest form, presentation management treats the sales presentation as communications. It forces executives to consider the message, the image, the audience, and the delivery—much the same as they would for a website, print, or TV ad. The presentation thus morphs from a one-time deck to an enterprise asset.

The advantages of presentation management are clear:

  • Consistent branding and messaging: Making sure that everyone in your enterprise is "on message" is critical to not only building your brand in the long term but also improving individual performance.
  • Reduced risk: When everyone is on message, no one is going off-brand, potentially misinforming clients, or making promises the company cannot keep. Or, worse, for industries like pharmaceuticals and finance, going against regulations. Fines and lawsuits are expensive. Presentation management is a form of risk management.
  • Access to the best content: Users can easily find the slide or file they need for their meeting, and then either edit it a little or use it as is. That process alone can save hours off of a salesperson's prep time for a meeting—time better spent with clients.
  • Easier PowerPoint: A good presentation library, with best-of-breed content, makes it easy for individual salespeople to create killer presentations. It gives them a head start, with branded, professionally designed and written slides.
  • Less time, more productivity: By making it easier to find content and use it for your specific purposes, you're no longer wasting time fumbling around with PowerPoint. That makes you more productive.

PowerPoint files and the information contained within them are more than a valuable marketing asset. They are an enterprise asset. Presentation management will unlock that asset for everyone in your organization, empowering them to make better presentations—before they ever open PowerPoint.

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How to Improve Your Presentation Before You Even Open PowerPoint

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image of AlexAnndra Ontra

AlexAnndra Ontra is a co-founder and the president of Shufflrr, an on-demand document management solution for dynamic presentations. She is the author of Presentation Management: The New Strategy for Enterprise Content.

LinkedIn: AlexAnndra Ontra