Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Most Stable Operating System in the World

(Play the music to the Twilight Zone over and over while you’re reading this)

Imagine if you will an Operating Platform that always does what you expect, never crashes, reacts instantly to your every whim and shows exactly what you want on the screen, impossible you say, not when you enter the Powerpoint Zone.

Okay, enough of the Twilight Zone thing and all jokes aside I’m going to go on record here and say that Powerpoint sucks sweaty equine gonads!

Anyone who’s shocked by that hasn’t sat through as many excruciatingly abysmal Powerpoint presentations as I have over the years. For the more literal minded among you this can be equally applied to any other presentation tool.

A few years ago I watched a Powerpoint presentation introducing a new product from Microsoft, that was “due for delivery so soon that you’d be crazy implementing something else since it’ll own the market”.

Well, the product never showed up...ever even though the demogod doing the presentation said the product was “so good its not user friendly, its user seductive”...

Not a word of a lie he called a software product “user seductive” which brings up a whole lot of unwanted mental images about what this guy did in the privacy of his own home with empty software boxes. If the product was so ’seductive’ how come it never hit the market? I’d say because the best operating platform for this product was Powerpoint.

Now lots of people have written lots of stuff about Powerpoint both good and bad so I may end up repeating some of it here, but, I’m also going to go over some stuff that you may not have heard before.

They key thing to get out of the way up front is that 99% of the population do not know how to use Powerpoint. At all. Ever. In any way.

The strength and corresponding failure of Powerpoint is that it is very easy to use. In fact its so easy to use that after a couple of microseconds you can put together a presentation - what Powerpoint is spectacularly bad at doing is helping you to put together a good presentation.

A good presentation is about storytelling and entertainment and the speaker engaging with the audience, not with the speaker reading what’s on the screen. Most presenters are not natural storytellers and there are a very few that are so astonishingly bad that their presentations are like overdosing on sleeping pills. Time slows down, seconds become hours, your attention is drawn to a slowly melting ice cube because its more interesting than the talentless drone with the captive audience.

Have you ever noticed how your bladder starts to work overtime during bad presentations?

I remember one of my friends in the industry saying that he’d sat through the worst presentation of his life at IDG’s 2009 CIO Forum in Sydney, to the point where he told me he wrote on his response form “Please God, don’t ever let this man present to anyone ever again and warn me if he’s going to present at any other event that I’m going to so that I can stab myself in the eyeball with a blunt pencil to have a more enjoyable experience.” 

Now I worked with one CEO who proudly said “I’m so good at using Powerpoint that I can bang out a presentation in about an hour”. His presentations were amongst the worst I’d ever seen, he couldn’t communicate his message to save his life.

One of the best presenters I’ve ever met gave me this little gem of information, “Run your presentation silently, if someone who hasn’t seen it can get all the details and facts without a word being uttered you’ve just written a document and your presentation will suck.”

Now you might ask what the hell has this got to do with getting to a 1% Spend? Its simple, presentations represent the best ways to get your message “out there” to the rest of the business. A good presentation will help you get your message out. A bad presentation will just hurt you. In your favour is the fact that most presentations are so bad and you’re competing against such a low base that just a few small improvements will make you look like a master communicator.

Your other advantage is the self-delusional belief that most people have in their presentation skills and their unparalleled ability to use Powerpoint.

The fact that you’ve gotten this far and haven’t been offended to the point of stopping means that you figure there may be something to learn here.

Just remember 99% of the presentations you’ve seen are living, breathing examples of how not to do presentations. Watch all the bad presentations you can and learn from them, watch a couple of Steve Jobs’ Apple Keynotes to see how to give good presentation.

There’s a few more blog entries about presentations soon, going into a lot more detail and pointing out some good resources for you as well.

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