Pretty Slides = Good Presentation…NOT.

Forgive the radio silence over the past four weeks; I have been busier than ever before. I was involved extensively with a defense contractor that I an not allowed to identify, a pharmaceutical company that I am (Bristol-Myers Squibb), a foreign country that I cannot name, and an upcoming trip to one that I can (Norway).

In all cases, I note two phenomena that have a potentially profound impact on how our professional community moves forward:

1) Few of my clients understand what the word "design" means.

2) Most of them equate the set of slides that they create with their "presentation."

I accept and forgive the first tendency; I bristle at the second. And together, they comprise a healthy challenge for those who hope to advance the state of the art within our profession.

Most of my clients confuse "designing a presentation" with "making slides look pretty." If something is well-designed, does that mean that it is attractive? Maybe, but not neessarily. Design should refer more to function than appearance. If something is well-designed, it should mean that it is properly constructed, has benefitted from forethought, and is part of an effective system. A well-designed presentation is one that delivers the right message in the right way. A pretty slide can guarantee neither.

An equally common occurrence is the client who gives me a printout of their slides and says "Here is my presentation." This grates on several levels, most notably how willing these people are to denigrate their own value statement. What does that say when presenters thinks that their slides are more important than their words? Where is the priority when the product of PowerPoint rates higher than the product of a person's thoughts?

Pretty slides = a good presentation. That is the simple equation that these two misconceptions create. It is incumbent on all of us to raise our consciousness around these points to a higher plane.

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