bits and pieces:
On the use of PPT presentations

What is the appropriate use of multimedia/PowerPoint "passive" presentations--presentations with no personal interaction?

  • Are people using these types of presentations to communicate product (or service)?
  • features or benefits?
  • If so, where?
  • On their website?
  • As sales collateral?
  • How deep is the content?
  • Are they used as "leave behinds" to recap a detailed sales discussion?
  • Could they replace that discussion altogether?

Are sales teams too reliant on these types of presentations to the extent that such presentations have replaced (quality) interpersonal discussions?

The above concerns are well known, especially through associations with sales folks in small(er) corporations.

Canned, passive presentations should be used carefully and sparingly. Of particular concern becoms their use--or even consideration--as "replacements" for detailed sales discussions altogether. Just think how much one checks out of a supposedly interpersonal discussion when the presenter shoes up with a 60-slide deck.

For passive interaction, 1-2 pager notes are able to communicate the necessary product feature/content. One can even model these notes as "product datasheets." These could be published through emails / websites / events. PPTs have a great impact during interpersonal meetings since they help manage the flow and structure of the discussions. Also, PPT presentations help people in audience to take down key points in their notes.

In a way, PPT presentations have come to embody the communication assassinator of corporate America. And, that's when they are accompanied by a verbal script. Passive PPTs are even more removed and impersonal. The next step on that slippery slope is miming. A prospect has to be pretty darn desperate to actually flip or click through an unaided PPT presentation. These days, sellers seem to default to PPT presentations when approaching a prospect because "everybody does it that way." Prospects, on the other hand, seem to be immediately turned off by the mere appearance of a PPT because, well, "everybody does it that way." While these PPTs sometimes work as a suitable leave behind in a competitive pitch, there are clearly more interesting and more effective mediums, such as a Flash presentation or just a real, live conversation.


Anonymous said...

You are so right, really great presentations are about a lot more than just slides, but many are not quite ready for moving away from slides and leading persuasive meetings... my rule of thumb is to have 1-3 SLIDES PER 10 MINUTES of presentation, clean b/w slides - it's cheaper, faster to produce, no more than 2 fonts per slide.

So for 30 min of presentation the MAX. number of slides would be 10.

The supporting material is going into handouts.

Hey I was thinking to press "publish" when I thought... but what about Steve Jobs? His presentations are full of multimedia features. They are very simple though and they really work. Well, I still consider what kind of audience are they directed to.

Anonymous said...

Danny S

Mind Belief for Business & Personal Support -"holding the vision of success" ()-Toplinked

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Powerpoint presentations..... good v bad

What's the worst thing that has happened whilst using or setting up power point

What's the best result you have had from a powerpoint presentation

I watched a good clip from David Rose on Ted about pitches and presentations

thanks for sharing....

posted 1 day ago in Mentoring
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Answers (16)

Jeff P

Senior Analyst at Certica Solutions

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The worst is the "powerpoint parrot" - someone who includes a lot of info on a slide and then reads it verbatim.

Personally, my rule is - no more than 5 bullets, no more than 5 words per bullet, lots of pictures.

Frankly, the "power" of powerpoint is it's visual nature. If you're not capitalizing on that, it's not a good presentation.

on the other question you asked - I once (recently) had 2 presentations - one for end users, one for execs. They started the same but went down different paths, and the exec one had stuff that the end users shouldn't see... guess which one I loaded up. :) Fortunately, I'm a good dancer.

posted 1 day ago

Phil L

Information Technology Manager/Consultant

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Powerpoint presentations are like conversations, it's a tool and will not help anyone who doesn't know how to present. When I am presenting two dimensional facts to two dimensional people I use powerpoint. For my serious presentations I use other programs.

posted 1 day ago

Brett T

V.P. of E-Commerce at Goody's Family Clothing

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I'm currently nearing the end of a somewhat spirited vendor-selection process, so I've been seeing a lot of PPT lately. A few thoughts from those experiences:

- The presenter should drive the presentation, not the slides. PPT is there for emphasis and visual impact. It is not a teleprompter.

- Adjust for the ball. At one meeting I had to say "I need to hear about A, B & C. Does this presentation talk about those? If not could we skip it and just talk?" A prospect or client should not have to say that. To the presenter's credit they did respond by immediately dumping the PPT element, which left a positive impression.

- If possible, give your audience a copy of the presentation and alert them to that fact up front. This allows them simply to listen. Along with this, if your audience is tech-savy don't give them paper. I had one sales exec give me all his team's PPTs on a flash drive with the vendor's logo - this left me with a good feeling (and a flash drive).

- If you are a presenter ask yourself what would happen if all the sudden you PPT didn't work or was not available. If your answer to yourself is that you'd be lost, then maybe you are using PPT as a crutch. If you know your stuff, slides are nice but not an absolute necessity.

posted 1 day ago

Lena S

President, Orasi Consulting

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Always bring your own laser pointer - even if the facility says they will provide one.
At my last presentation, the tech told me I could use the computer mouse as a pointer for my presentation. There was a significant delay between the moment I moved the mouse to when the pointer would move.
This consistently broke the flow of my presentation and would constantly interrupt the flow of my thinking.

posted 1 day ago

Casey Q

Mighty Mouth & Storyteller in Chief of Mighty Casey Media

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The worst is the eye-chart slide - the entire spreadsheet smacked on the screen and then read, cell by cell, in a droning monotone extolling features, benefits, and/or ROI.

When I use presentation slides, I put a maximum of 5 words on each one - I use them as an attention anchor, not 'read this and ignore me'. If what you're saying isn't holding audience attention, you need to wake 'em up. Or come up with a better presentation of your ideas.

Slides support your presentation. If they ARE your presentation, why not just put them up on the web and email around a link? That's more effective than a weak in-the-room presentation...

posted 1 day ago

Peter D

International Marketing Leader

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Some stuff about powerpoint. First if you want to see what people are doing go here.

Second, are you talking or is the powerpoint going to have to standalone? If you are talking, then less is more. If the powerpoint is the message and the real decision makers aren't in the room, then it better standalone.

Third, how big is the audience? Less than 20? Consider dumping powerpoint. You will at least shock them.

The worst thing that happened to me was to have my laptop crash and die 10 minutes before a 15 minute presentation. Fortunately I had a paper copy, so I could summarize. I also asked anyone who wanted the slides to send me an email. The people who did were serious about followup and so was I.


posted 1 day ago

Daniel T

Social Media Marketing and Community Manager, Strategist and Addict

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I've had laptops crash, projectors fail, network cables not work etc, but it's never the end of the world...

I try hard not to parrot everything, but it's a case of getting better from practice - the best results have been completely unsolicited praise appearing in places that I didn't know existed, and discovering some cool new people and opportunities...


posted 1 day ago

Michael A. K

Moving You And Your Organization Up to the Next Level

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I agree with the poster above who said of PPT "...less is more."

Powerpoint should be a tool. For many "presenters" it becomes a crutch; for many others, it becomes an encyclopedic listing of everything that they want to cram into their presentations. In neither of those cases is the tool effective.

I worked for a firm (thankfully for a short time) where the culture insisted that every Powerpoint slide be packed with words--each slide read more like a page of a Dickensian novel, and inevitably the audience tuned out.

Use PPT selectively. Use it sparingly. Be brave enough to leave it and engage your audience in (oh, my god) discussion and conversation.

posted 1 day ago

Carl T

CIO at the ATCC

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Use graphics and succinct bulleted information. Stay away from trying to put a novel on a slide. Remember, you want to get your point across as quickly as possible and not put anyone to sleep.

posted 1 day ago

Christopher Y

Managing Director at Xtec Media, Inc.

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Leave it to the graphics professionals. Often many people have to convey too much information on a single slide, especially with pharmaceutical and financial companies. Our challenge is presenting it in a clean, attractive and easy-to-understand way. Think about the time spent just thinking about it.


posted 1 day ago

Brian C

Product Marketing, Product Management Consultant

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I stopped using Power Point. Instead I now use Keynote. If you're used to Power Point's ability to automatically reduce a slide's font size down down down to 6 points so you can write a book with PPT you won't like Keynote. Less is more. A presentation is a presentation, not a document. Use the speaker notes to your advantage and don't write a white paper. Also, buy and read the book, "Presenting to Win".

posted 1 day ago

Lisa V

Owner, Van Allen & Associates, Conscious Business Coach, Author & Speaker, LION.

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The worst thing: I created a BEAUTIFUL powerpoint with lots of photos and graphics for a day-long presentation. I handed my flash drive to the tech and somehow he deleted the file. I ended up doing the presentation pretty much from memory off a bare outline handout. It was a loooong day.

I agree with what has already been already said - less is more when it comes to powerpoint. It is a great tool - but should never be a verbatim script or crutch that is leaned on heavily.

I recently read an article in the HBR that showed how a presenter could maximize results:
- a casual, comfortable speaker (rather than a perfect, memorized speech)
- limited use of powerpoint with graphics and key words that emphasize key points
- use of story telling to keep audience interest and to change the rhythm and pace of presentation

I have done hundreds of presentations and can confirm that this is a winning approach!

To your success!!


posted 1 day ago

James G

Project Manager at GlaxoSmithKline

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Agreed with much of the sentiment along the lines of it's better to dialogue than lean too heavily on .ppt.

However, for a teleconference with a group of diverse stakeholders mulling over a key management decision, it is very effective in focusing conversation.

Had recent success where some fairly detailed process modeling was in backup slides. Because the group wanted to go there versus stay at the main presentation's higher level, it was great to be able to flip to that.

posted 1 day ago

Stephanie T

Friend at Virtual Friendship

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posted 9 hours ago

Cristina M

Business Manager Middle East & Eastern Europe, Vector Consultants

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Worst I've had: got bored to death!! It took the "salesperson" more than an hour to get it out of my face, and she refused to stop even when I begged her :)
Worst I've done: worked on it for two full days, went to the client, then could't find the damn' think in my computer....
Best result: went to present a certain type of service, then clients asked for some more info, so we ended up selling a lot more :))

Thanks for the reference, very nice indeed

posted 3 hours ago

Minke K

Student MA New Media

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Here's a clip of 'How NOT to use PowerPoint', which also mentions a lot of the points I've read stated above. I figured it makes a nice addition.

It's a fragment called "Life After Death by PowerPoint" by Don McMillan.


fCh said...

Q. And is there any change in the kind of qualities you’re looking for compared with 5, 10 years ago?

A. I think this communication point is getting more and more important. People really have to be able to handle the written and spoken word. And when I say written word, I don’t mean PowerPoints. I don’t think PowerPoints help people think as clearly as they should because you don’t have to put a complete thought in place. You can just put a phrase with a bullet in front of it. And it doesn’t have a subject, a verb and an object, so you aren’t expressing complete thoughts.

Excerpt from an interview of Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, conducted by Adam Bryant for NYTimes