Organizations of all sizes hire specialists for their website design and construction, sales and marketing collateral, and advertising. Yet, it’s fairly unusual for a company to hire a presentation specialist, even for critical needs like selling products and romancing investors or potential partners.
I’ve heard several rationalizations for this:
- “Our presentations are fine.”
- “Presentations are not important in our business.”
- “My 9-year old can do PowerPoint – I’ll do it myself. No big deal.”
- “Stella (an admin or ‘marketing person’) always does our PowerPoint.”
- “I just call that designer guy.”
In the first place, 98% of business presentations suck – and you know this. Even though audiences are usually polite, nearly everyone complains about boring, deadly PowerPoint. Maybe your competitor’s presentations are better than “fine.”
You’re the best judge of the importance of presentations in your business and it is perfectly reasonable that you may not use presentations in some activities. But, make sure you remember investor pitches, board meetings, analyst briefings, webinars, conferences and trade shows.
The remaining excuses (DIY, Stella and the designer guy) come from the assumption that presentation development does not require any special skills and practices. I beg to disagree; here are some ideas on what a specialist should bring to the party:
- A specialist should understand the dynamics of the presentation situation: the speaker, the audience, the PowerPoint presentation and their multiple interactions. Experts agree that a presentation is not a document; it is also not a brochure, ad or video.
Graphic designers often fail this test: strategies based on print or web experience don’t usually create good presentations (although graphic design principles do apply).
- A specialist should recognize the symptoms of “Death by PowerPoint” and know how to avoid them.
The specialist should know the extensive literature available on this subject, much of which is based on cognitive theory.
- The specialist should be able to use both halves of his or her brain – analytic to understand your enterprise, its products, your strategy and your business environment, and creative to present your message engagingly.
- The specialist should be demonstrably fluent in PowerPoint and know how to select from the hundreds of PowerPoint features and effects to create effective, painless (maybe even entertaining) PowerPoint presentations.
Take another look at your presentations. And at who creates them.