Posted by: kurtsh | September 14, 2005

WEB: Notes on Presenting with Powerpoint

A friend of mine blogged recently about Jesper Johansson’s recent article about how to use Powerpoint:
I read through it and while I agreed with the general humorous gist of the article, I thought that there were some larger macro-level points about presenting that are more important to focus on rather than the nuances of building Powerpoint decks themselves.  I’ve read through numerous books that tell you such old advice like: Don’t use small fonts, Don’t pack too much in a slide, Use pictures,…blah blah blah.  This is stuff you can get out of any Dummies or Complete Idiot’s guide to presenting with Powerpoint.
I’ve been in sales for more than 10 years at Microsoft and I’ve consistently see the same presentation mistakes, and they frankly, usually have nothing to do with Powerpoint.  I’m not going to go off on a rant here but here’s just 3 examples of things that are pet peeves of mine of new technical sales employees at Microsoft that present.
    Answer the question that in your customer’s minds as soon as humanly possible, then go back an explain why your answer is correct.  Your audience has an itch to scratch, otherwise they wouldn’t be in front of you so don’t make them wait 15 minutes before you scratch that itch with background sides, history slides, marketing slides, or stuff that will just annoy them – no matter how important you think it is.  People that do this are usually slackers using some pre-fabbed presentation deck loaded up with marketing slides about "their company’s history" or "the ‘problem’ that they’re solving".  And make no mistake – it’s obvious.
    Guide your pitch on what the audience responds to, and barring that, base your commentary on the slide title – not the actual content of the slide.  When you can give your presentation without looking at a slide deck at all, you’re ready to present.  People that don’t know their presentation flow are obvious because they read bullet items and are completely dependent on their slides to give their pitch.  This is the mark of a bad salesperson.
    Measure and balance the following:  You, your pitch, the audience. 
    Make sure you’re jazzed about your pitch… if you’re not, reschedule.  And if your jazzed, the audience will be to.  If they aren’t you’re not scratching their itch and you need to adjust your pitch.  If your pitch isn’t on target with what you’re trying to communicate, reschedule, because if it’s not, it’s awfully hard for you to get jazzed/excited about.
On Powerpoint:  2 quick rules.
  • The main rule of Powerpoint is the "4×5" rule:  No more than 4 bullets, no more than 5 words per bullet on a slide.
  • The main rule of presenting is the "Tell them" rule:  Tell them what you’re going to say, tell them, then tell them again what you just told them.


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