Lee Featherby spent his early working career pitching and presenting new ideas and products for some of the most well-known multi-national consumer goods organisations in the world. As a trade-off, he has had to sit through innumerable mind numbingly boring presentations by people with an innate need to impress with everything they know, in 20 slides. It was only after helping his University tutoring partner with a presentation that wowed her audience that Featherby decided to build a business that now creates presentations for clients in more than 10 countries.
As Featherby says: “Just because you have to sit through insufferably long and boring presentations, doesn’t mean you have to deliver one. We have all experienced the pain of a bad PowerPoint presentation, and even though we will have promised ourselves we’d never commit the same crime, it’s easy to fall into the trap and bore people with amateurish animation and multiple bullet points too small to read, which distract your audience from the core message. The good news is your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to be ordinary. It gives anyone who thinks intelligently about engaging an audience, a fantastic advantage.”
Most people know better than to create long, wordy PowerPoint slides with fonts so small that nobody can read, yet they do it anyway. When people have an idea they want to express, they want to give you every bit of it, even when they know that less is more. It’s just too hard for them to leave out that extra slide. Its lead to the phrase “Death by PowerPoint,” which is so well entrenched in our vocabulary it is even found in Wikipedia. It takes courage to control your ego and to simplify your message and it requires humility to admit your presentation is too long, your slides are too technical, or there are too many words on each one.
Featherby Says: “What we bring to our clients is more than just pretty slides. We work with them to get clear about an appropriate outcome for the presentation. We look at the way they structure their presentation to give it more sharpness and more focus and make it more convenient or more appropriate for the audience. Most presentations start with organizations talking about themselves and really, people just don’t care about you until they know you care about them.”
A recent article in Business Week confirms Featherby’s approach: “No matter what your line of work, it’s only getting harder to avoid death by PowerPoint. Since Microsoft launched the slide show program 22 years ago, it’s been installed on no fewer than 1 billion computers; an estimated 350 PowerPoint presentations are given each second across the globe; the software’s users continue to prove that no field of human endeavor can defy its facility for reducing complexity and nuance to bullet points and big ideas to tacky clip art. As PowerPoint’s sole function is grounded in visual arts, its slides do more harm than good.”
The problem is that PowerPoint has gone from being an aid to a crutch. Most people take their cue from their peers when preparing a presentation. They just vomit as much information as they can glean from their hard drive until they have made 20 or more slides and then decide they will just wing it when talking to the audience. According to Meinald Thielsch, whose study of PowerPoint appears in the May 2012 edition of the journal Technical Communication, 36 percent of the preparation time for the average proposal was consumed by design and animation work by people without formal graphics training.
According to Featherby: “When most people have to give a presentation they leave it to 3 days before the event and then open PowerPoint and start bashing away. And that really doesn’t make them engage with the content or think about the structure or presentation style. However, when they contract with outside experts to craft a presentation, they will normally provide a number of weeks’ notice to allow work on the content and some interactive processes. They engage with the material better and become more familiar with it. They get to talk about what they should say on each slide and what the objective and outcome is. When they stand up to present, they’re far more familiar with the presentation than if they did it themselves.”
No matter how much is written about “Death by PowerPoint” or how many times it is scoffed at in social media where every day you’ll see workers bashing the sleep-inducing software in multiple languages, people don’t change. When they have an idea they want to express, they want to give you every last bit of it, even though we all know and understand that less is more. It’s just too hard to leave out that extra slide. This fact presents many good opportunities for people smart enough to see the advantage a creative, engaging presentation can provide. By creating simple, visually engaging presentations and learning to tell a story, and then practicing until pitch perfect, you’ll stand out in a hyper-competitive business environment. Your voice and your ideas will be heard.
To find out more about visually creative and engaging presentations that will give your business a winning edge, visit www.powerfulpoints.com.au.