Posts Tagged ‘PowerPoint Amnesty’

The Curse of The Consultant – Content Cramming

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Simon<

“A consultant is someone who takes the watch off your wrist and tells you the time”

We’ve all heard the jokes about management consultants.  Depending on your experience, you either nod knowingly and tut quietly to yourself or politely laugh and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Ultimately, the “old school management consultant” (or “OSMC”) style associated with high fee, high profile companies – you know the ones we’re talking about, they specialised in confusing charts, thick reports and having a slightly supercilious air about themselves – became a figure of fun…and thankfully are now few and far between.

Whilst the expensive and ultimately flawed report may well have found it’s way into the shredder, the OSMC’s influence can be felt in companies across the land.  And it’s not good news.

Many OSMC’s were judged on the amount of data they produced.  The thinking was clear – more data shared, the more comprehensive the study…and ultimately the more valuable for the client.  Makes sense in a twisted sort of way…and so ramping up the content became the norm.

The problem is that this profusion of content slowly found it’s way from the OSMC’s usual weapon of choice, the verbose Word document, into other forms of communication including the lowly PowerPoint presentation.   What you end up with is something like this:

And the creation of such horrors is where the rot really sets in*.  Businesses were faced with a dilemma – if management consultants were the clever ones who we should all look to emulate, then shouldn’t we all be creating similar looking complex slides…even though whenever we present them, we’re faced with a sea of confused/unengaged faces?  Tricky.

To make matters worse, many OSMCs made the leap from running big-ticket projects to running the companies.  And cluttered, overly complex slides became the cultural norm in companies across the World.  Need proof?  Look no further:

It’s something we battle with day-in, day-out…and it would seem few companies are immune.  From globe-straddling mega-businesses to fast-growing start ups, they’re all having to fight hard and think harder against creating overly complex slides.  I guess that’s why Eyeful exists…

If you were to take away just one message from this heartfelt rant, this is it – when it comes to OSMCs, everything they tell you about presentations is wrong.

Step away from the content and embrace the message.

* Somewhat alarmingly, this slide was only produced in 2009, thus proving the influence of the OSMC lives on!

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Festive Friday Fun…

Friday, December 16th, 2011 by Justine<

All the Christmas drinks and canapes are starting to blur into one…  The sneaking suspicion that we’ve forgotten someone on the office Secret Santa is close to becoming a full time obsession…  Tinsel is being worn in hair and around PC screens across Eyeful Towers…

We admit it.  We’re getting very excited about Christmas.

So in a short break from tweaking our lovely new website, Justine (the Bernie Taupin to Simon’s Elton John) has crafted the following lyrics to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

Note – this is not an audio file to avoid contravening the Geneva Convention on cruel and unusual punishment!


Presenter stands, are you listening?

What’s the theme, something’s missing?

I’m falling asleep, I think I might weep,

Where’s the Eyeful Magic that it needs?

 

I don’t know what he’s saying,

But I see people praying,

They want a reprieve, they’re gagging to leave,

Where’s the Eyeful Magic that it needs?

 

Ploughing on without purpose,

Like a clown at the circus,

He’s breaking my heart with cliché clipart,

Where’s the Eyeful Magic that it needs?

 

Slide fifty four, It’s not funny,

‘Cause you know time is money,

If the next bullets mine, then that will be fine,

Where’s the Eyeful Magic that it needs?

 

Later on when it’s finished,

I’m at home, stress diminished,

Next month it’s my turn, here’s a lesson I’ve learned,

To get the Eyeful Magic that I need!

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Words of Wisdom from Dilbert

Thursday, December 1st, 2011 by Justine<

This is going to be a toughie. Dilbert has been sharing his thoughts on PowerPoint with the world…BUT having been through his licensing bumf I find that I am not ‘free’ to share them with you directly.

My best suggestion is to visit www.dilbert.com search for September 27th 2011 and September 28th 2011 and then come back to me.

Just in case any of you did, I’d better plough on.

Obviously although flies have singularly failed to rule the universe in spite of their numbers, adaptability, annoyance quotient and difficulty to swat (all traits that human beings have used much more effectively), they definitely have a valid point of view on rubbish and/or PowerPoint.

Also the opening of portals into parallel dimensions is a particular favourite topic of mine and I will never stop trying to make it a reality.

Now you wish that you’d gone and had a look, don’t you?

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By the Power(Point) of Grayskull….

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 by Justine<

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has always been a little controversial.

Unlike most of its contempories the action figures came first, with the cartoon being merely a (very successful) vehicle to drive sales. Yet despite all the marketing, legal and moral controversy surrounding the multiple iterations of the series (including a live action film with Dolph Lundgren – we kid you not), He-Man has never upset audiences in quite the way he has recently.

The source of this controversy?  Someone has (rather amusingly in our opinion) created a picture of He-Man delivering a PowerPoint presentation.

he man

We’re almost at a loss where to begin with this one.

Firstly whilst the wearing of furry knickers to deliver a presentation is not illegal there is a general consensus that wearing trousers over the top is a ‘good idea’.

Secondly, although the message (I’m better than you) has indeed grabbed the attention of the audience, we don’t believe that any positive response will be achieved.

Thirdly, if that’s the best chart he can come up with we suggest he turns his laser pointer on himself.

Now, we’re going to presume that even the most amazing of you are unable to whip out a magic sword and summon the forces of good to defeat the evil Skeletor (at least during waking hours). But, here at Eyeful, we are proud to offer each and every one of you the opportunity to be better than He-Man. No need for magical powers just the ability to click through this link.

Oh and don’t forget your trousers…

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The Anti-PowerPoint Political Party – Revolution? What Revolution?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 by Simon<

Whilst Europe flaps around in a blind panic about the strength of the Euro, the Swiss political landscape is set to change as Mr Mattheus Poehm launches his new political party – APPP also known as the Anti-PowerPoint Political Party.

Do not adjust your sets nor check the diary to see if it’s the 1st April – this is for real.

Whilst it’s easy to mock, Mr Poehm raises an old but albeit fair point about the ineffectiveness of PowerPoint and presentation software in general.  There are elements of his argument that stack up – let’s face it, Eyeful continues to grow massively year on year because of the prevalence of “Death by PowerPoint” in business today.

Amnesty-StickerHowever there are some fairly major areas that we tend to disagree on.

Firstly – the problem isn’t the software…and the proof is out there if you look hard enough or are lucky enough to be sat in the right place at the right time.

Two of the best presentations we’ve seen in the last year were done with the aid of PowerPoint.

The first had 9 slides with about 20 words (in total) on and lasted 20 minutes and the second had about 50 slides on and lasted 30 minutes.

Both were vastly different but had 1 thing in common – they were very good. The key phrase here is “done with the aid of PowerPoint”.

The problem that Mr Poehm doesn’t really tackle is the quality of the presentation (not the slideware!).  Let’s make one thing clear – presentations fail because of poorly prepared or unskilled presenters.

“Death by PowerPoint” is a symptom of a presenter who hasn’t committed sufficient time, energy or thought to the creation of a key message, compelling and relevant content or considerate design.  It’s that simple.

Secondly – we disagree is on his unilateral move to flip charts. Certainly flip charts are a good tool to use when presenting – they bring interactivity to proceedings that can sometimes be lacking in PowerPoint.  They also can enliven and enthuse a presenter.

But, just like PowerPoint, flip charts can also be used badly to bore and alienate an audience.  As the saying goes – “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.

The cynic in me might think that Mr Poehm has some shares in a flip chart company, or that this is a shameless PR stunt that is really only about selling a book he happens to have just published. Fortunately that’s just the cynic in me, and I try to keep that at bay…

Whatever your view, ours is still pretty firm. PowerPoint can be awful, that’s true…but it can also be awesome.

It all depends on how you use it…

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Corporate Presentations – Time to cut the B.S.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 by Simon<

Everyone has the misfortune to hear “it”.

The use of “it” is rife amongst all businesses today.

It” is jargon.

BS Free ZoneCall it what you want – catchphrases, buzzwords or business speak – either way, it’s completely incomprehensible and certainly damaging to presentations.

Indeed, the use of business speak has become so prevalent that campaigns have been set up to try and prevent the use of such jargon. There’s even a yearly online award for the worst offenders.

It is time to stamp it out!

Next time you write a presentation, we implore you to look closely at what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

Then spend time to re-write it as simply as possible. After some soul searching, you’ll see that a very large proportion of your slides become more focussed and to the point. More importantly, they become easier to engage with and therefore much more likely to be understood.

As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself replacing “let’s run it up the flagpole” with “without leverage we won’t synergise” then you clearly need our help!  If not, read on for some common mistakes and how to tackle them.

Missing the point

Long words and incomprehensible sentences cloud your message. These tend to be used by people who are desperately trying to jazz up a presentation (you know who you are!).

Remember – the most effective way of communicating is the most basic.

Over complicate and over promise

The hard sell just doesn’t work.

Business people are generally intelligent folk. If you show them the facts in a clear, consultative manner, they can see for themselves the benefits of your proposal. 

Go on…show you audience some respect and give it a go.

Boredom

A presentation is about getting a message across.

The more attentive an audience, the more of the message will be absorbed. Now we’re not for one minute suggesting you perform magic tricks or show off with some juggling…just remember that long-winded business jargon is a surefire way of terminally boring the audience.

In Summary…

Your presentation is an opportunity to communicate, convince and instigate change. It’s a priviledge that shouldn’t be underestimated by the presenter.

Your audience are a captive audience, at least at the start of your presentation. The best way to lose them is to overcomplicate the delivery.

Tell your story in simple ways and in your own style – this will ensure you really get that message across

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An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 by Simon<

Dear Steve,

How are things..?  It looks to have been a bumpy few months for you but it all seems to be coming together for you now.  Nicely played…  

We wanted to drop you a line to firstly commend you, secondly to point out some “opportunities for improvement” and lastly to suggest something a little “out there”.  Bear with us…we think you’ll like it.

Eyeful - Supporting PowerPointSo firstly, the commendation – PowerPoint 2010 is really very very good.

Here at Eyeful, we’re 100% behind anything that helps people deliver their presentations in a more effective way and PowerPoint ticks a lot of the boxes. 

It’s improved integration with video and Flash, it’s expanded array of SmartArt.  Heck, we even like some of the new transitions you threw in there (although we hope most of them are used sparingly!). 

We also love the fact that PowerPoint 2010 is a big step away from 2007 which, let’s face it, was awful.  Team Eyeful applaud you.

But onto our 2 main gripes…

Firstly the default setting is STILL bullet points!  We’re here on the frontline dealing with blizzards of bullets everyday…all because this is the first screen people come to when opening up PowerPoint! 

Amnesty-StickerYes we know, people should know better but you’re in a unique position to help them think differently.  So think outside the box!

If needs be, we’d even advocate the re-introduction of the old annoying paperclip to nag people into submission and stop them using bullets (and that’s REALLY saying something!).

The second gripe is to embrace the mobile presenter.  Start bringing out some apps to use PowerPoint on non-Windows Smartphones and, dare we say it, the iPad.  You’ll have read our recent letter to “the other Steve” so you know what we think of the presenting software on the iPad.

Why not out Apple – Apple?  Just think how good you’d look on stage in jeans and a turtle neck sweater…

Lastly let’s get a little bit “out there”. 

We think it’s time to re-brand PowerPoint…and the first change should be it’s name. 

PowerPoint 2010 may be a fine bit of software but, my God, does it has an image problem!  In many people’s mind PowerPoint = boring bullet point strewn presentations (the clue is in the phrase “Death by PowerPoint”).  

In all honestly it doesn’t matter what you call it!  How about “Presenter” or “Storyteller”?  Anything to suggest that it’s about improving presenting and not just a medium for boring bullet points.   

Overall PowerPoint 2010 is a great step forward and we want to make sure you know that. But there are a couple of really big opportunities that don’t come along very often – take them and you might just make all the difference…

Yours sincerely (and rather over-enthusiastically),

The Gang at Eyeful

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Breaking News – Eyeful & 2Win! Global partner to deliver “Blended Presenting”

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 by Simon<

We take great pleasure in giving our loyal band of blog readers the lowdown on the latest happenings here at Eyeful Towers before the rest of the World finds out.  We think the fact that you follow us via RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and all the other clever technological malarky available means you deserve to hear the breaking news when it’s, um, breaking….

So it’s with great pleasure and a bit of a fanfare that I can announce our new partnership with leading training and coaching company, 2Win! Global

2Win partner graphic2We’re extremely excited about working with the team at 2Win! Global – not only do we share many of the same customers (Microsoft, Software AG and Adobe to name but a few) but this new partnership allows us to launch our long-awaited “blended presentation” methodology.  We’ll be peppering the website with more information on “Blended Presentations” so keep your eyes peeled.

By bringing together Eyeful’s in depth knowledge of presentation development and design with 2WIN! Global’s market leading training expertise, we’re pretty sure we’re in a unique position to deliver the most impactful and persuasive presentation experience for companies across the World.

We’re also pleased to confirm that 2Win! Global also shares our approach to developing long term and trusted customer relationships – it’s about developing a true partnership.  In short, it’s a marriage made in heaven!

Over the next few days, we’ll be making a song and dance about this exciting new partnership so keep an eye out for the press releases, website updates and Podcasts.  Of course, if curiosity has got the best of you, give us a call or drop us a line and we can fill you in on the details.

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It must be silly season again – the BBC on PowerPoint Presentations

Monday, September 27th, 2010 by Simon<

Let me set my stall out early – I love the BBC.

I admire its reason for being (ref. Lord Reith – to educate, inform and entertain), am a fan of much of its output and am proud that a big chunk of the planet turns to the BBC World Service when they want the news. 

I do, however, have one beef.  The lazy, easy swiping of PowerPoint.  It would seem all you have to do is mention Microsoft’s PowerPoint to an editor with 2 minutes to fill and they’ll launch into a knee-jerk attack on the software.  

BBC video

Sadly, as in this example, the Beeb’s attack on PowerPoint won’t be based on any real understanding of the issues facing people using the software – a lack of planning, a misunderstanding on how and when to use it or, possibly more importantly, the ingrained cultural issues around the software in some large organisations. 

Nope – they’ll simply drone on using their favourite phrase, “Death by PowerPoint”, to attempt to form some empathy with the audience and then launch into the next 90 seconds of trivial clips of people falling into a coma in a lecture theatre or meeting room.  It’s not only rather patronising…it’s lazy.

So come on BBC – next time you report on PowerPoint (and yes, I implore you to – it’s far from perfect), engage the brain and think bigger. 

Offer ideas and examples of how it’s delivered ideas in a clear and impactful way (the majority of TED talks include the odd slide or 2), demonstrate how the quality of presentations has improved over the years (just look at the news graphics from 10 years ago as your own proof point) and celebrate how audiences have changed in line with the technology…and vice versa.

Oh, and whilst you’re at it, give us a call.  The last slides I saw delivered by a BBC employee were diabolical.

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PowerPoint Sins – The Step-by-Step Guide to Absolution

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 by Simon<

I was recently asked for an interview by the fine people at Indezine.com (a veritable treasure trove of presentation and PowerPoint hints and tips) regarding PowerPoint sins.  Indezine did such a fine job at distilling my rant into a useful article, I thought we’d also add it to our own blog:

Indezine: What according to you are the highest ranking PowerPoint sins?  Tell us about them

DEvil-StickerWe’ve seen an interesting increase in the perception of PowerPoint sins over the last few years.  Phrases like “Death by PowerPoint” are now commonplace and with high profile media stories surrounding hideous PowerPoints slides being used by the likes of the US Military, fuel is frequently added to the flames.

The most glaring “PowerPoint sin” is the use of too much text on a slide.  This, combined with a blizzard of bullet points, will strike fear into the heart of most audiences.

Coming a close second are the aesthetic crimes people commit – the clichéd stock images (we’ve banned “shaking hands” in our studio!), redundant clipart (duck hitting computer with mallet springs to mind) and downright inconsistencies with fonts, templates and colour schemes (normally down to some careless copy and pasting by the user!).

Controversially, I’d suggest that these are the least of the PowerPoint sins and certainly the easiest to fix.

More telling is the lack of thought that goes into presentation planning.  We believe that most “Death by PowerPoint” occurs as a result of a lack of structure and/or focussed message.  This is the result of the presenter either not understanding their audience or, even worse, not particularly caring if their message is of any relevance to the poor people in the audience.

This lack of focus is often seen in sales pitches where the majority of the presentation is dedicated to telling everyone how big and successful the company is whilst forgetting to explain why their product or service might be of any value to the comatose audience sitting in front of them.

This usually manifests itself in slide after slide of financial charts, pictures of their impressive Head Office and, in one particularly shocking example, a full organisational chart with pictures of each member of the board!  The audience must be silently screaming “SO WHAT?!  THIS IS IRRELEVANT!!”

Finally, carefully planning your presentation (a process we call Presentation Optimization) allows you to think differently about the medium to use.

  • Does your PowerPoint need to be linear?
  • How about building in interactivity to help build engagement with your audience or allow you react to their questions?
  • How about using something we call Blended Presenting by which we mean applying different mediums at different points, for example moving from PowerPoint to Whiteboard to build further engagement with the audience?

So in short, PowerPoint sins run much deeper than simply banning bullet points!  It’s about re-thinking the entire purpose and process of your presentation and building up from there.

Indezine:  To not sin at all, that may be possible if people knew they were doing so – but most users just don’t give that sort of attention or thought to the slides they create – how can they be educated?

We get ourselves very hot under the collar when it comes to the value attributed to presentations.  Eyeful’s 2010 Business Presentation Survey highlighted the continually important role presentations play in sales pitches, internal communications and financial reporting.

Yet despite this, presentation decks are normally created in-house with little or no expertise.  We call this the Presentation Paradox and have even created a White Paper highlighting the gap between the impact quality presentations have versus the typical investment made.

The Presentation Paradox

So how to address the issue and educate purveyors of poor PowerPoint?

Your first step should be to watch the people who deliver focussed, compelling and effective presentations.  Steve Jobs is the stock answer to this and yes, he’s very good…but in his position, he should be!

But don’t just follow the superstars – look how “normal” people in your own business or industry deliver their presentations.  What works?  What doesn’t?  Write down your thoughts and incorporate them into your next presentation.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to speak up!  Bad presentations have sadly become the norm because audiences have not made their feelings known.

Audiences deserve better than the typical “death by PowerPoint” presentations that are inflicted upon them – it’s that simple.  As a result, we’ll often approach speakers after conferences, not to pitch our services to them but to offer feedback on what worked as well as what elements might benefit from new ideas or a different approach.  To date, presenters have taken this feedback on board gladly (for this read no-one has punched us yet!) because everyone wants to improve.

Finally, we’d recommend downloading a new eBook, Beating Death by PowerPoint in your Business – http://www.eyefulpresentations.com/beatingdeathbyppt

Share it freely with your colleagues and perhaps through a collective effort, we may be able to drive the quality of presentations up a couple of notches.  We can only try!

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