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Presentations and Meetings: Everyone has an opinion

I've been following Marketing guru, Seth Godin's blog of late. A couple of days ago he opined on powerpoint presentations, or to be more accurate a really bad slide a particular CEO used. I couldn't help remembering that I actually used a similar one while pitching e-Immunization at a VC workshop once, and got very similar criticism there from Guy Kawasaki. Now, b-school and a summer spent in consulting has meant that I've had ample opportunity to think about presentation and power points in particular.

I agree with Mr. Godin's basic premise: that the main goal at the end of the day is communicating your message effectively and so making an "emotional" connection in a presentation is a great, great idea, but not all products/ideas/situations allow that. For example, he proposes a style where you use pictures etc. to re-enforce your message, rather than detract from it. Jobs, I think does a great job of this, but then he always has great material to work with. :) I've seen presenters try this "use pictures to make point" approach, and they've been absolute train wrecks.

What makes Godin's suggestion reasonable to me though is that he suggests giving people a different document to take away. The problem I think is that Powerpoint slides have become all things to all people: Presenters use them to present ideas/products to audiences; consultants use them to detail strategies to clients; everyone uses it as a summary of the lecture they're giing; I've even seen it used to do project planning. A format/style that works for one purpose however, is obviosly unsuitable for another. While using the same tool for everything (which is fine), people using the same formatting isn't, and people do.

I do like Godin's summary about ideas to make meetings more productive though.


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