Monthly Archives: November 2010

PowerPoint is NOT your tele-prompter

Your PowerPoint slides are NOT your tele-prompter! In other words – do NOT read the words off your slides. A tele-prompter is a great tool for making speeches. But it only works when the audience does not see the words you are reading.

Here is an excellent video from T.J. Walker on this topic:


Remember his last words: Use PowerPoint filled with images just for your audience.

I repeat: Use PowerPoint filled with images just for your audience.

More on “PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid”

One of our viewers directed us to a video from TED. The speaker there seemed to relish the idea that the spaghetti diagram was such a mess. He said it gave him a chance to sort through it all and see the clarity!

Well – now that’s like someone saying: “Gee…I am really happy that I have terminal cancer since that will give some scientist a chance to look for the cure.” Does it make sense to you?

There is a way to salvage this spaghetti mess. You can use the diagram as a photo backdrop (faded but still visible) throughout the presentation. Your presentation will consist of ONE idea per slide with the spaghetti backdrop as a reminder of the complexity of the topic to audience. The ONE idea must be in the form of a short sentence – not bullet point.

Use as many slides as the complex situation warrants. Remember – you no longer have to pay someone to make up your slides. They are free!!!

PowerPoint Makes us Stupid!

That is a direct quote from  Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander at a military conference in North Carolina.  He of course spoke without PowerPoint.

Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he was a Colonel serving in Iraq likened PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Here is the infamous Pentagon PowerPoint slide that prompted a general to say: “If we can understand that slide, we will have won the war.”

I sure hope the high ranking idiot who came up with this slide is now a Private First Class.

You want to communicate “enough” – not “everything”

In my previous post, I talked about how some bad presentations try to define “marketing strategy” and put up “mission statement”

In the bad presentation, it tries to define marketing strategy as something that involves the activities of selecting and describing one or more target markets and developing and maintaining a marketing mix that will produce mutually satisfying exchanges with target markets. So here are some questions about the definition. What exactly are those activities? What other targeted markets? How do you define a marketing mix? Specifically what is meant by mutually satisfying exchanges? The list of questions can go on and on with each definition requiring more definitions. If you try to talk to somebody using language like that all you will get in response is a blank stare or ridicule. Normal people do not talk that way.

As for the mission statement – this is usually one of the first things that an entrepreneur does. And the result is a painful and costly exercise that ends in “exceptional mediocrity” as Guy Kawasaki put it in his famous book the Art of the Start. Every mission statement says the same thing.

Let’s look at a major soda company’s mission statement. It states that it “wants to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages. We seek to produce healthy financial rewards to investors as we provide opportunities for growth and enrichment to our employees, our business partners and the communities in which we operate. And in every thing we do, we strive for honesty and fairness and integrity.”

So who would not want to say all these nice things? My God – we have premier, healthy financial rewards, enrichment, honesty, fairness and integrity! The only things this company has left out in the mission statement are motherhood and apple pie. So it wants to be the best in the world and the one to make lots and lots of money and be nice to everybody. What else is new? Do we need to see and hear that in a PowerPoint presentation?

Another idiotic thing we often see in presentation is business plan. Every new business startup spends tons of money hiring consultants to draw up business plans. And every business plan pretty much says the same thing: we see this fantastic market in the world and we hope to make a gazillion dollars in five years’ time. What else is new? In order to attract investors, most of these business plans will of course assume an exponential growth. If you don’t believe me, just go and read some of the business plans of real estate developers written three years ago. Or the business plans of all those hi-tech start-ups written a year before the burst of the Dot Com bubble.

Business plans are nothing more than fantasies – pure and simple. It is like saying that you have this great product that you plan to sell to every single man, woman and child in China and India and by gosh if you can just make a profit of one dollar each, your annual profit  would be $2 billion. But please tell us what you plan to do to actually get every man woman and child to buy your product. And how much would that cost you? The success of any company is in the execution of the business on a day-to-day basis, not how fanciful a five-year fairy tale looks like.

99.9% of business plans read like science fiction after one year in operation –  assuming the startup has not gone out of business by that time.

So skip the business plan in your presentation already. Just talk about how you plan to run your business realistically. Forget about all the business buzzwords. Just tell us your story. Describe your dream in terms that normal people can relate to. Not a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

That is the essence of a good presentation.

What’s on your mind when you see a bad presentation?

My friend Jim from the U.K. sent me a link to a “new alternative” to PowerPoint Presentation and asked me what I thought of it. He said it made him feel seasick. It made me drowsy after a minute. Here is what went through my mind as I viewed the presentation and gradually slipped into a coma:

“Look buddy – If you have something interesting to say to me, please say it. Tell it to me like we are having a conversation over a cup of coffee. Don’t splash a bunch of hideous words up there and expect me to read them while you mouth every bloody word of it.

For example, you don’t need to define for me the legal meaning of “marketing strategy”. Just tell me what it means to you – in plain old English. Every time you try to define some terms in a legalistic way, some smart attorney is going to tear it apart. He is going to say that you have missed something in the definition. So forget about it.

My friend – I don’t need you to tell me what your mission statement is in fine prints that are totally unreadable. Besides – mission statements are silly. Every company has pretty much the same mission statement: to make as much money as possible at the least possible cost while being the best in the industry and keeping customers happy. Have I covered everything? So what else is new? Tell me something new. Perhaps your mission statement is to not soil your undergarment while giving a boring presentation. That I would like to see on the screen.

If the subject of your talk is very complicated or technical, please give me a hard paper copy of your report and I will read it, analyze it, study it, and examine it in details later. Don’t put up your fancy equations and formulas on the screen. No one will be impressed. All you need to tell me right now is the overall layman’s view of your topic. As they say – if you can’t explain YOUR own topic to your 92 year old grand mother, it means you don’t really understand it!

You see – any fool can splash a bunch of words up there and read them. To explain them in good old plain English, that’s a different matter altogether.

So – enough of these bells and whistles. Just tell me YOUR story, please. Thank you very much.”

Ding ding ding….does my reaction ring a bell to you?