Don't let your PowerPoint undermine you.

The Importance Of Getting Your Presentation Right

How important is it that your PowerPoint presentation makes a good impression on your audience? So important that, if it doesn't, you will get fired from your job? Possible, as this Guardian item relates.

James Wilde, the CEO of Rentokil, was allegedly fired in 2004 because his PowerPoint presentation to shareholders was too long and rambling. The use of PowerPoint is widespread. How can we ensure that we don't make the same mistakes that Wilde did? Let's address some of the complaints about his presentation.

  • "His presentation...was too long, too rambling, hesitant." This problem could be avoided by:
    • having clear objectives for the presentation.
    • breaking the overall message down into manageable chunks that are easily transferrable to your slides.
    • focusing tightly on the purpose of each slide
    • being concise.
  • "He...turned down advice on communication." This problem may not be apparent in isolation in just one presentation. Does it characterise... you? Do you recognise the value of feedback from those around you, and reflect on it?Feedback from you audience is the most valuable kind. Disregard it at your peril. A close run second is advice from other experts in the field. If an authority is prepared to offer you some advice, you should probably take it. How can you get this feedback/advice?
    • measure the results of your presentations.
    • canvas experts on your chosen subject for ideas.
    • ask for help from those who are excellent at presenting/communicating
      • "The episode was a window into Wilde." The feelings that people have about your PowerPoint might not be restricted to only your presentation. If your audience feels bored by your presentation, it is because you are boring them. If they are confused, it because you are not being clear. In contrast, if they are engage and entertained they will think you are engaging and entertaining. If your metrics indicate that your presentations are failing in any way, it is an unavoidable reflection on you.

      The fact that a CEO's demise was partly attributed to his presentation indicates the importance of PowerPoint. Actually, it suggests something deeper, for PowerPoint is only a tool we use to communicate. Of course we need to understand how to use the technology, but equally, we must be good communicators. We must be attentive to feedback and willing to learn and adapt our presentation.