I find slides distracting during presentations…

There is always the exception to a posting like this where someone has attended a session and the slide deck that made a lasting impression on the audience. Now let’s take the same presentation and ask the question; have you ever been held hostage when another presenter uses the same slide deck and ends up pointing at the slides failing to deliver the point? The presenter has a great message to deliver, yet somehow the slides become an unnecessary distraction. The other extreme is attending a session where the presenter doesn’t have a presentation, instead they have a slide deck from the marketing team. The marketing deck example follows the same basic formula for holding an audiences prisoner

Your Name Best slide in the whole deck
Agenda Rarely followed and we spend far too much time going over this slide
Industry or Market trends – Lots of people/companies have this problem

– Everyone is doing it and you’re not (or you are doing it, just the wrong way)

(these are things you generally know except this deck has percentages and surveys)

Why Us? Analysts said we’re magic!

The Solution
Insert the thing you are being sold (you can have a stomach ache, but presenter is sure it can be solved by their new mobile cloud solution and big data), often expressed in far too many slides. There is some belief the number of slides are an indication of the deck’s value (hence we have the distraction of trying to get thru too many slides).
Conclusion Q&A, Call to Action, Ta-da!

Table 1-Marketing deck outline

Showing up with a slide deck doesn’t mean you have a presentation. If we can deal with that level of thinking we are closer to solving this problem of creating 60 minute hostage crisis. There is plenty of material on being a great presenter and building great presentations, I want to share a few observations I’ve found to be helpful over the years.

Companies could do more to identify and invest in people who are passionate about the message. These people are fantastic brand ambassadors for the company. This is different from finding subject matter experts to deliver the presentation. There are lots of subject matter experts take for example many of the judges on reality TV singing competitions. They are subject matter experts, and at the same time most of them couldn’t sing a single note.

Investing speakers passionate about the company message could be the key to help your company break away from the competition in your market.

It is ok to say no to a request for a presentation (especially with slides). You can offer to talk to the audience instead. Take a seat and be the subject matter you already are! In my observations customer really appreciate having access to you as a subject matter expert. The alternative was a pre-determined slide deck that may or may not connect with audience. This happens even when have agreement on the agenda up front.

I recall an executive briefing with a customer where it is generally death by slide deck for 60 minutes at a time all day. One presenter came sat down with a napkin ask the customer a few questions, jotted a few notes and just talked with the customer for 45 minutes. The customer couldn’t stop talking about the session the entire night and by far had the best presenter during the 2 day slide marathon.

Online presentations is a great where it makes sense to use more slides to drive the presentation. The ability to connect with the audience online varies from the method used for an in person presentation (even with a webcam this can be a tall order).

People can pull it off great presentation online both live and pre-recorded. Scott Hanselman would be one of the greats, along with many of the presenters in TED talks.

This is a great place to use slides to make the point. (See I am not all anti slides)

A few other good resources that provide an alternative to the dreaded slide deck. Check out Dan Roam’s materials on Amazon.

Sorry for the mini Dan Roam infomercial but I am sure Dan or Amazon won’t mind.

I found this material useful in freeing me from slide purgatory when I just need to convey to the customer I understand the problem and gain consensus on an approach.

There have been many times people have asked me for my slide deck on a given topic and they are often disappointed when I send a deck with ten or fewer slides containing only a few bullet points. I realize the requestor wants the message captured in a slide deck, when I rarely use slides simply because I don’t want the slides to distract the audience from the presentation.


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