A Powerful Point

It used to be that flip charts, handouts and overheads projectors were the presentation tools of choice. Now, these antiquated tools have been replaced by the ubiquitous presentation software, from our friends in Redmond, known as Power Point. The introduction of this tool forever changed the business meeting. It caught on slowly. Most of us didn’t understand what the heck it was all about, until some young hot shot impressed the brass with colorful and animated graphics, shooting across the screen. We all took note, “Wow, now that is how I can get ahead.” We noted that executives, not unlike small children, are impressed by colorful moving objects. Now the bulky overhead projectors and charts are gone; white boards and sleek high resolution projectors have taken their place. Power point has become the defecto standard for communication to management.

To help you with your communication to upper management here are a few pointers:

First, make sure everything is in slide format. Spreadsheets, documents, graphs or tabulated data, are not understood unless presented in slide format. Cut, paste, or do whatever it takes to get the information into a slide format. Somehow, the embodiment of the material in a slide makes it digestible; kind of like putting your dog’s prescription in a wad of meat. Oh, and don’t forget to use the “corporately approved” slide template.

Avoid the “I think you are illiterate” or “Wall Street Journal” presentation styles. In these formats, the slides contain lots and lots of text, and only text. The presenter reads to the audience, word for word, their entire bulleted dissertation. Remember, copious graphics and limited text goes a long way. The people you are presenting to may take the WSJ, but they “read” USA Today.

When using graphics, make sure they add some value to the presentation. Occasionally, the misguided presenter will include a stupid clip art graphic of a silhouette of a stick person scratching their noggin with question marks popping out of their head. While this graphical diversion can be effective eye candy, it can be interpreted as a self portrait; reinforcing the perception that you have no clue what you are presenting.

Next, be careful not to get too whiz bang. Inserting too much animation, sound and other techno-cool tool box features can lead to the likely correct conclusion that you have too much time on your hands.

Finally, and probably most important, is color. Avoid what programmers call the angry fruit salad. Abusing the color palette can make things confusing. Using yellow ocher, burnt umber and phthalo blue may make the wildlife jump off a Bob Ross painting, but too many colors can complicate a business presentation. When presenting to management, it is best to keep it simple and stick with green, yellow and red. Green items will not be questioned, yellow items may get some discussion, but it is the red items that will certainly be the focus of discussion and scrutiny. You can use this conditioning to a kind of color Kung Fu advantage. Use green for the challenging issues, and use red for all items that are going well. Defending and discussing the red items will be a snap.

With these tips you can dazzle management with your presentations. Don’t be surprised if you are asked “Hey, can I get a copy of that?”