What I've Learned in Business So Far...

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Artisan Fan, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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    The anti-PPT-Christ himself, Edward Tufte, recommends written prose, especially for technical presentations where you are trying to transmit a lot of information.

    Hand out the paper at the beginning of your presentation, and the slides can then highlight certain things in the paper, and the audience can follow along and mark things in the paper as the presenter goes through them. I've used this style successfully, though it requires a bit of commitment and forethought (as any good presentation does, cf. the stories of Jobs's endless rehearsals).

    One problem I have with PPT presenters is that their own thought process tends to be shaped by the bullet-point style of PPT, when they compose their presentation directly in PPT, and I think that limits how well they can think about an issue.

    PPT should really just be a shallow, cursory representation of a much deeper presentation of the subject. That's not surprising, because PPT is a selling tool, not a high-bandwidth, high-precision transmission channel.

    --Andre


    Yes and No. I'll explain. I generally agree but some discussions are more strategic and visual in nature so A few well-placed and well done visuals can be entirely sufficient for the task at hand.

    Andre is dead on with presentation of analytic results. Usually we have a summary slides of what a typical customer may look like to a client. Then in an Appendix we have the supporting detail. That way the business manager is happy since he sees the "key takeaways". And the technical staff wants to pore over the details and double check the methodology or look for any interesting anomalies.
     


  2. Redwoood

    Redwoood Senior member

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    Bullet points are good for breaking down an issue into parts.
    I don't understand the 'odd numbers only' rule. It might as well be 'only 3 bullet points' because 5 bullets are almost always too much and 1 bullet point is always wrong (how can you break something down into one part?)
     


  3. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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    Good point about the bullets, A Y. As a teacher who usually uses PPTs to supplement/guide my lectures, I find that the first two times giving a lecture are more stilted and limited to the bullets. After I've done it a couple times and I know what questions will come up, I can fill in things much more smoothly. The lesson is, practice before an audience.

    Excellent point.
     


  4. Alter

    Alter Senior member

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    Yes and No. I'll explain. I generally agree but some discussions are more strategic and visual in nature so A few well-placed and well done visuals can be entirely sufficient for the task at hand.

    Andre is dead on with presentation of analytic results. Usually we have a summary slides of what a typical customer may look like to a client. Then in an Appendix we have the supporting detail. That way the business manager is happy since he sees the "key takeaways". And the technical staff wants to pore over the details and double check the methodology or look for any interesting anomalies.


    This is the approach I usually recommend. Keep the initial slide simple and offer the supporting data in an appendix that can be utilized as a handout or in case something needs to be clarified during Q&A.
     


  5. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos In Time Out

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    ^^ that sounds infuriating, yet somehow completely unsurprising. I would have a blank odd-numbered bullet on slides with an even number of points, just to annoy them.
    At first it's frustrating. After awhile, you see the brilliance of the purpose. Not only are you developing a consistent communication architecture across the company, but you're forcing people to get extraordinarily precise with the way they convey information. When you've got three bullet points on a slide, and no point can exceed one line, you have to get damned choosy with your words. This is an amazingly effective mental challenge, and it conditions you to think and present in as clear a manner as possible. My time there did more for my general skill set and intellectual growth than my time at any other company came close to doing.
     


  6. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos In Time Out

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    PPT should really just be a shallow, cursory representation of a much deeper presentation of the subject. That's not surprising, because PPT is a selling tool, not a high-bandwidth, high-precision transmission channel. --Andre
    Exactly. All too often at corporations these days, the creation of the PPT deck substitutes for the actual research and analysis process. It leads to dangerously shallow thinking. The Apple philosophy is a counterpoint to this trap. You need to do seriously robust analysis, and the presentation is simply an airtight and efficient distillation of that analysis. It is fully expected that the slide with a single number on it stands in for a meaty, absurdly complex Excel model.
     


  7. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos In Time Out

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    Could you expand on this? Any other "rules"?
    Black gradient background. Myriad Pro semibold font in white. Odd numbered bullet points. Elements must be aligned precisely, i.e., numerical sizing and not freehand guesswork. Do not distort images out of their original proportions. You can resize or crop, but maintain proportion. Economy of words; no bullet point should exceed one line. Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, zero-sum, or inversely correlated. Always Keynote, never PPT. Use animated builds, magic moves, effects, etc., where effective. But don't get too cute. Don't put anything unnecessary on a page. Anything on the page is fair game for discussion, and it is expected that you made fully conscious decisions to place everything where you did. Most important... Tell a compelling story in the order of your presentation. Agonize over the order of slides. Think and rethink the story and the message, then do it again, and then do it again, multiple times, throughout the building process.
     


  8. Alter

    Alter Senior member

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    Black gradient background.
    Myriad Pro semibold font in white.
    Odd numbered bullet points.
    Elements must be aligned precisely, i.e., numerical sizing and not freehand guesswork.
    Do not distort images out of their original proportions. You can resize or crop, but maintain proportion.
    Economy of words; no bullet point should exceed one line.
    Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, zero-sum, or inversely correlated.
    Always Keynote, never PPT.
    Don't put anything unnecessary on a page. Anything on the page is fair game for discussion, and it is expected that you made fully conscious decisions to place everything where you did.

    Most important...

    Tell a compelling story in the order of your presentation. Agonize over the order of slides. Think and rethink the story and the message, then do it again, and then do it again, multiple times, throughout the building process.


    Many thanks!

    I am enjoying this thread so much...great insights from everyone. I often consult Japanese that give presentations to non-Japanese audiences so it is great to hear these opinions.


    Also, nobody has thrown out the buzzword of MECE as yet. I am wondering if the MECE framework is still commonly used in the consulting world or has it been replaced by a new way of thinking?
     


  9. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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    Also, nobody has thrown out the buzzword of MECE as yet. I am wondering if the MECE framework is still commonly used in the consulting world or has it been replaced by a new way of thinking?
    Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. We still use it. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MECE_principle
     


  10. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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  11. Jr Mouse

    Jr Mouse Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Great thread AF! [​IMG]
     


  12. Rambo

    Rambo Senior member

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    You guys discussing Jobs' presentation skills are missing one important detail - he doesn't need to sell ANYTHING. His products sell themselves. His customers are sycophantic. He knows this. In effect, all he's doing is showing off. Its easy to be the most impressive guy at the gang-bang when you're swinging the biggest dick.
     


  13. Matt

    Matt [email protected]

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    I know less is more with PPT, but I typically find myself with a dilemma on this, and end up over writing my decks accordingly.

    My issue is that I will present to, say, Regional Comms Director, who needs a takeaway when he/she gets on a plane back to (say) Singapore, and needs to give it to, say, the Regional Marketing Director and the Regional Managing Director.

    If I have a slide that says (random stuff follows):

    Current market perception:
    - generally positive
    - some areas for improvement
    - lower share of voice than competition

    ...they take it back, show the others, and they say "so what are these areas for improvement and what are our competitors doing" - which will all have been covered in the presentation, but now depends either on them meeting face to face (and the person I presented to remembering all) or else just looking empty.

    Sure, the lesson is "make sure you have all the decision makers in the room" - but then, I also live in a country where some of the decision makers visit annually. That won't change.

    Now, I could go preparing an accompanying word doc, but there are two constraints here.

    1. time to prepare. I don't have much. And
    2. time to read - he/she doesn't have much, and doesn't want to read a book to go with it, but'd pretty happily flick through a ~15 slide deck.

    In the end, mostly for the purposes of takeaway, I tend to over write my PPT decks. If the golden rule is know your audience, and I know that a part of my audience won't be there, then I guess I keep to the golden rule, even if breaking rules as they pertain to brevity and economy of words...
     


  14. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos In Time Out

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    ^^

    An important corollary to "know your audience" is "know what purpose the presentation will serve." If it needs to be taken away and read, rather than primarily absorbed in a live presentation, then you should definitelty be more detailed.

    At the same time, it's not Word. You don't have to write a textbook. Be creative and mindful in how you convey complex ideas. A dynamic and well-thought-out chart, for example, conveys a lot of information that might otherwise have needed a couple of dense and dry paragraphs to spell out.

    Frankly, "take-away and read" decks are one of my biggest pet peeves in the business world. That's not what PPT was designed for. People treat it as if it were Word. It is probably the most overused application in business, and seldom used correctly.
     


  15. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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    The reason that PPTs have become handouts is that PPT presentations are more common with clients so content is created for that first. Then some of those graphics will be exported to a Word document for RFPs and proposals.

    If you create the PPT content properly it is well suited for a "leave behind".
     


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