​​​​Dysfunctional Presentations and Power Points from Hell - Second Report from the IIA All Star Conference

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Five presentations at the IIA All Star Conference today and, regarding those presentations, I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. This all came on the heels of seeing a production of the play "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."

A good play. Interesting presentation regarding the history of Apple, Steve Jobs, and some of the practices Apple uses to get us those magic boxes we hold in our hands. But I'm not going to go into that right now. Instead, I want to talk about an approximately two minute rant that is a part of this play.

The actor talks about visiting offices in China where he is seeing Power Point presentations about what the companies do for a living. He describes a slide which says something like "Our company produces 200,000 widgets per one week period." The individual giving the presentation then says "Our company produces 200,000 widgets per one week period." The actor goes on to describe slide after slide presented in a similar manner.

And the crowd roared with laughter.

I don't know how many in that crowd were laughing because they thought it was ludicrous, and how many were laughing because they had lived through those presentations. I didn't laugh that hard because I've lived through way too many of those presentations.

And today I got to visit them again. As I already said – the good, the bad, and the ugly

The bad. The slide that says everything you need to know. And then the presenter reads it to you. (Often with the preface "I don't want to just read you these slides, but…") And there is next to nothing added by the presenter. We can all read. Give us something more. Ultimately, either the slides are not needed, or the presenter. And my fear is that it is the latter.

The ugly. Slides so crammed full of information they can't even be read by the presenter, let alone anyone sitting in the back of the room or trying to follow along on the app provided by the IIA. And here is the line you will hear (and, please forgive me, I've used it myself), "On this slide you can't read…" If it can't be read, don't use it!!!

The good. A slide that provides a couple of succinct points. A slide that reinforces, not replaces, what the presenter wants to say. A slide that all can read. A slide that brings focus to the presentation.

And at this point I throw all presenters a challenge (even if your presentation is to a group of three people, even if your presentation is to 3,000, even if you are presenting to the CAE, even if you are the CAE and you are making the presentation, even if it is me), think about eliminating that slide deck altogether.

When PowerPoint came out, it was a combination tool and toy. Maybe it is time to put the toy away and only use the tool when we really need it.

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