“Send Me Your Presentation!”

I despise those words. #DESPISE.

It took me a whole week to write more than that opening sentence. Despise captured my feelings and frustration towards the idea: that my value can be sent over e-mail. The implication that my presentation value can be captured in a PowerPoint deck irritates me no end. If that was the case, there would be no need to have me here in person. My communication would be pure and simply one directional. Spewing forth information about how wonderful our products are, and they are wonderful, believe me, or if not me, believe our advocates (customers).

My presentation is not my deck. I am the presentation. I present. The slide deck doesn’t present!

Stop and think for a moment. When did you last ask someone to reduce 80% of their presentation to a slide deck? It’s criminal in my mind. You think I am being too strong? Well bear with me. I’ll make my case.

Think about what you are really saying when you ask someone to send their presentation ahead of time for you to review? The statement is quite ludicrous. It’s patronizing. How do I send myself over e-mail? My presentation is not my deck. I am the presentation. I present. The slide deck doesn’t present! It’s a visual aid.

Slide Decks Are Visual Aids
I strive with my presentations and slide decks (yes they are not the same thing) to avoid beating you to death with boredom. I’m not delivering a white paper as my illustration. I am seeking to engage with you and share something I believe to be immensely important to you. If I don’t convey my message clearly I have done a massive disservice to you. I have failed you. I have wasted your time and reduced myself to being left out in the cold (see my “Are You The Best Leading Role, Supporting Role, An Extra or Left Out In the Cold?” post for more on this). This is something that I cannot afford to do.

The cost for you to not hear my message will be detrimental to your business, your story and your success. If I don’t believe that, I am in the wrong job. I need to quit. I  need to find a message and company I do believe in. The story has to be bigger than just me pedaling some software.

Hybrids Are Killing Us!
So how on earth can I dissolve all of the nuances that go into my presentation and send them in a PowerPoint file? Quite simply I cannot. So I don’t. I refuse (as much as I can). I get people annoyed because they all want and expect the slide decks. Really though, how useful are the slide decks you’ve requested? Do you give it one surface glance and then never look at it again? I know I’ve done that countless times. The only exception is when you are asked to give that same presentation (this crime will be the subject of a future post).

These bullet laden documents are worthless as handouts or leave behinds. They don’t convey the full story. They certainly destroy the story or leave it open to misinterpretation. Most presentations are lousy documents that I can’t read and understand in isolation. They are also equally lousy presentation material as visual aids. Somewhere along the line we went for a hybrid model and found ourselves in the sad mess we find today. It wasn’t always this way.

Before PowerPoint it wasn’t really possible to have so much text on our visual aids. We used white boards. It was concise. Relevant. To the point. Then we let technology get in the way of telling a good story. This hybrid of a handout and visual aid doesn’t deliver on either of its intended purposes. I maintain we need both. The visual aid and the handout.

It reminds me of the Windows 8 OS. Is it a tablet OS or a Laptop OS? It’s a miserable hybrid of the two. And from how the market is responding a lack luster attempt at hitting the nail on the head for either purposes.

So What’s The Alternative? Hard work 
This is where I expect a lot of opposition. Why? What I am about to suggest takes time and effort. It’s the right thing to do to stand apart, to bring value to your audience.

Two documents. Yes, two documents. Your slide deck and a handout / leave behind. Trust me this will make a difference and ensure as much as possible your  message gets across to those who were not present (or wish to review ahead of time). Of course if you can afford a film crew and make a quality video and post-production for embedding slide content I would go for that approach. Even that is not ideal. The presentation handout if requested is always appreciated by the audience.

Do not merge the handout and the slide to be one. That’s a mistake. Resist it at all costs. They need to be two distinct deliverables. To have your talk track on screen is a mistake. To send out a visual aid slide deck with no talk track is a mistake. Embed your slides into your handout and then have full written sentences that explain the message which the slide illustrates. It’s hard work. It pays off.

Hand Out

Published by Matthew Halliday

Co-founder, EVP of Product Strategy at Incorta. Passion for design, UX, data, stories, and making beautiful things.

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