It’s Not Your PowerPoint, It’s You

AlexAnndra Ontra

PowerPoint was originally created to improve and enhance presentations. With over 30 million PowerPoint presentations made each day, it has evolved into the default mode of all business communications. Ironically, with its success comes major pitfalls. PowerPoint often undermines the presenter and the product or service she is selling. We are all guilty of quickly slapping a deck together, and then running to the meeting, without a second thought. But like any tool, or practice, it’s important to step back and analyze its strengths and weaknesses so you can improve your usage of PowerPoint, make more informative and convincing presentations, and, therefore, become more productive and effective at your job.

What’s wrong with PowerPoint?
In and of itself, nothing. It’s a great program, with awesome graphic and video features that let anyone, especially those of us lacking graphic design talents, create a beautiful, polished presentation. It’s how we are using it, that’s counterproductive. Here is how we misuse PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is a crutch. We rely too heavily on it. Always remember that you are the presenter, and your message, your product or service that you are selling, is the hero. Therefore, your PowerPoint slides should be created and ordered in a manner that highlights, even glorifies, your product first and you second. Don’t let the easy access to bullet points, smart art and effects overtake you or your message. A powerful presentation leads with your message, and uses PowerPoint features only to enhance and emphasize that message. Not the other way. Message first, PowerPoint features last.

PowerPoint is linear. We let it drive the meeting. On the one hand, PowerPoint’s linear format makes it easy to build a case. On the other hand, human beings, i.e.; you and your audience, are more random in our thought processes. We do not think in “linear mode.” The most productive meetings are interactive, with dialogue and debate, questions and answers, give and take. And those discussions can go anywhere, on or off topic. A linear slide show, with its rigid, slide1-slide2-blah-slide3-slide4-slide5-blah some more does not allow for human interaction, for negotiation, which is where decisions and deals are made. It’s OK to stray away from linear mode.

Presentations are one-and-done. We lose valuable information. Presentations are often created for a specific meeting, and then left in a network folder somewhere to collect e-dust. No one knows about them, or no one can find them. So, the next time someone has to prepare for meeting, he either recreates his slides all over again, or spends hours hunting and pecking, opening and scrolling, copying and pasting, to create a new deck. What a waste! There is so much valuable knowledge on these slides, they could and should benefit the enterprise as a whole. Think of presentations as an enterprise communications asset, an element of the marketing mix, with some planning behind them. That way, you will leverage all of that mission critical content, put it into play, and empower everyone on your team to make more effective presentations.

We live in a technology-dependent world, and PowerPoint is critical to move our business forward. But there is a difference between “depending” and “driving.” Ultimately, it’s people, and all of their messy emotions and office politics that influence decisions. While PowerPoint is a critical tool to help communicate a concept and convince someone to buy, it cannot compensate for human interaction. You must be the driver. Not PowerPoint.

AlexAnndra Ontra is co-founder and president of Shufflrr, an on-demand document management solution for dynamic presentations.