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?

3 responses to “What’s on your mind when you see a bad presentation?

  1. Norman…..I still feel seasick!
    I cannot believe how technology can shape us… successful presentations are those that transfer just enough knowledge to be memorable; unfortunately in this case the presentation creation tools are given a full workout; just because you can show off doesn’t mean you should! It gets back to the old adage ‘To make something complicated is easy. To make something simple is twice as difficult.’
    Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in his aviation book ‘Wind, Sand and Stars
    “Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.” which gets translated as
    “It seems that the perfection is reached not when there is nothing any more to add, but when there is nothing any more to cut off.” This is what is on my mind when I witness such bad practice in presenting.

  2. Jim,

    If a good presentation is akin to having a conversation with someone, then watching the presentation we were exposed to was like talking to someone whose body was twitching and going into uncontrollable spasm.

    Yes – more is less!


  3. Damn those bells and whistles in PowerPoint. I have seen presentation slides that swoosh in from the left, swoosh in from the right, and coming right at you with exploding words. Much of the real estate is taken up by cheesy clip art and company logos. All is left is a tiny square into which they jam 10 tiny bullet points.

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