That sounds like a personal question. It is not. Just an observation that size of your presentation deck tells more about you than you might imagine. This is particularly important as we enter a period of intense communications as we consolidate 2010 achievements and finalize 2011 plans.
This observation came up when we were discussing the nature of executive briefings and presentations. To often the presenter believes that more is better. They create an expansive presentation that frankly in the belief that they need to show how smart they are rather than recognizing the value of the information to the intended audience.
PowerPoint proliferation, particularly unnecessary proliferation, tells your audience all the wrong things about you, your team, your leadership etc. Here are a few observations about how audiences perceive a presentation with a large number of slides.
- The longer the deck the more complex the audience sees your subject and complexity is rarely good. After all if you cannot describe the topic, the issues and decisions in a few minutes, then what ever it is must be very complex and complexity breeds risk, a lack of agility and an area of weakness rather than strength.
- The longer the deck the more you subject must cost as the audience sees in your subject as all of this detail must be expensive because you felt it necessary to take me through all of this and each piece caries a cost or requires a resource to operate.
- The longer the deck the less confidence the audience may have in you as a leader. Comprehensiveness is an indication of a limited comprehension as it becomes apparent that you cannot differentiate the most important aspects of the subject — the parts that matter — from everything else.
- The longer the deck the more you tell the audience that you do not want to engage them in a discussion. When you need to ‘get through your slides’ the focus changes from is on presenting the entirety of your slides which signals that you matter more than your audience presents. A dangerous thing when you are looking to enlist their support.
- The longer the deck the less opportunity you have to demonstrate your leadership, experience, capability, intelligence etc. You simply do not allow the audience the time or indicate that you are open to a discussions that demonstrate how good you really are. The audience cannot see you as a leader when you are a presenter.
Here are a few thoughts on the key topics you need to address in presentations as a way to keep it brief. In each situation, a bullet constitutes a slide that provides a clear answer to the question and room for you to discuss the answer in depth as required by the audience rather than as presumed by you. I am sure that there are other ‘templates’ for presentations, but I thought I would choose three common ones
Briefing a new leader on your group and function should involve no more than 5 – 10 slides that answer the following questions:
- Who are we? What are our resources? Our responsibilities? Our role?
- How do we contribute value to the enterprise and IT?
- What are our measures of success?
- What we are working on now?
- Where the teams skills, abilities and resources best applied in the enterprise?
- What we need from you to deliver on our potential?
Briefing the board or executive team on a request for project funding requires brevity and being succinct, as you want to activate their expert judgment in support of the project rather than beating them into submission via bullet points.
- What is the decision you are presenting?
- What is the business reason for the decision?
- What are the options and why did you choose a particular course of action?
- How do you know that you have the capability to deliver on the commitment?
- What are the measures you will use to demonstrate progress and success?
- What you need from the board and the enterprise to be successful?
Presenting your groups status, either to your boss or to the team should concentrate on how you are all moving forward and the issues/challenges that impede progress.
- Where is the group relative to its plans and commitments?
- What are the issues and decisions that are outside the group’s control?
- What resources (peep, budget, authority, decisions, etc do you need to resolve your issues?
- What are the decisions and actions you have taken that will bind others?
These three question sets illustrate some of the common communication types. Answering these questions and only these questions in your decks should help to keep them clear and focused. Other issues well think of that as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and command of your job.
So, the next time you are creating a presentation. Think about the size of your deck.