Presentation Management: Ending the Tangled Mess of PowerPoint?

Created: Monday, March 11, 2019, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 am



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By AlexAnndra Ontra, James Ontra, and Geetesh Bajaj

Presentation Management: The New Strategy for Enterprise ContentThis post is the first part of a set of serialized posts, based on original content, the Presentation Management: The New Strategy for Enterprise Content book, authored by AlexAnndra Ontra and James Ontra.

With their consent, it was decided to make this post series explore the same concept with a larger perspective, while still retaining the original content. This will help us enlarge and enhance the scope, and reach a larger audience. At the same time, the content will be divided into smaller posts, that you can read one at a time. As far as possible, each post will be individually self-contained. We will also take advantage of the blog post medium to make this content more colorful, detailed, and interactive.

You may agree with what we say, you may disagree, or you may partly agree. Either way, we want to hear your thoughts! Please do post your comments to make this post more engaging.

Yay! I’m going to create a PowerPoint presentation today. I can’t wait to get to work!

–So said, No one, ever.

The End of PowerPoint Culture

Do look carefully at the illustration above. You’ll notice that the illustration is titled, “The End of PowerPoint Culture.” What do we mean by “PowerPoint Culture?”

PowerPoint culture is the slide-making and presenting process that has ruled many offices and organizations over the last three decades. To give you an example, let’s meet Jane, who has been asked to create a presentation for tomorrow’s meeting. She knows what her boss will speak about, but she has so much more work to attend to, and she doesn’t have much time to create something fresh and inspiring.

Now, can you imagine or even identify someone you know, who isn’t very different from Jane?

So what does Jane do? Here’s a typical workflow:

  1. She fires up PowerPoint, and adds the first slide. She types the name of the presentation, and the name of her boss.
  2. She now adds the second slide, and wants to type an agenda. The problem though is that she doesn’t know how concise or detailed her boss needs the content to be. So what can she do now? Her boss is now in a plane somewhere, and she has no time to lose. So, she copies the agenda from an older presentation, and makes edits. Yes, this is not very inspiring, but what else did you expect?
  3. Next, Jane copies a few slides from an older presentation. And maybe, it’s OK to copy older slides, for if someone spent a few hours creating the perfect slide, why not use it again? But the problem is that some stuff has changed, and the slide needs to be updated. Jane doesn’t know that, and it is not even her fault.
  4. Now, Jane opens up a few important Excel sheets, and then copies a few data tables and charts, and pastes them in PowerPoint to create new slides. Who hasn’t copied content from Excel into PowerPoint before? Does it matter that she copied as many as twenty five rows from the data table in Excel? Further, does it matter that the pasted content sports small, teeny-weeny text that most people in the audience may not be able to read?
  5. Jane is so happy to have reached this stage! She quickly adds a slide for question-time, and finishes the deck with a thank you slide. It would be so impolite to end without a slide that actually says thank you!

You May Also Like: PowerPoint Is Not Word or Excel

Now, this story of Jane may appear exaggerated. But that’s the whole problem: it’s not exaggerated at all!

Far too many presentations are created exactly as described, and that’s what we call PowerPoint culture! Some people are not so polite: they call it “death by PowerPoint.” And that’s not fair, because PowerPoint did nothing at all to deserve this bad name.

You don’t blame a pencil or a pen, or even a sheet of paper for bad handwriting, so why blame PowerPoint for bad presentations? After all, isn’t PowerPoint also just a tool? OK, that is a topic we will explore another day, but you do understand now what a tangled mess our presentations weave? And that is the first of the three steps shown in the PowerPoint Culture illustration. Let us explore these three steps:

1. Tangled Mess

Well, Jane’s story was a perfect example of that tangled mess. Although it is tempting to add more, let’s be happy with that example for now.

2. Slide Library 1.0

Some entrepreneurs realized many years ago that something needed to be done for people like Jane who were part of the tangled mess. So how did they help her? Let’s look at some examples:

  • What if there was already a similar deck available that Jane could use? After all, their company employed hundreds of people like her boss, and they must have created some awesome presentations. What if their presentation designing team had already created a deck that she could at least use as a template, or even a starting point?
  • What if their company had an online database of slides that she could search?
  • What if there existed a specific template available for creating Agenda slides? Or what if an Agenda slide was automatically generated from her other slides in the deck?
  • What if all slides that Jane used were continuously updated with latest figures?
  • What if that same Excel content had been simplified and made available? And yes, the data was updated from the Excel content that Jane used.

Yes, this example explores the idea of Slide Library 1.0, that is so much more refined, elegant, useful, and updated. You just act like a slide DJ, and move all your slide content as needed, and download your own updated presentation. This is how presentation management tools like Shufflrr work, and many enterprise customers and even consultants use this solution to make sure that their PowerPoints are not creating a tangled mess.

3. Slide Library 2.0

This is the evolution of Slide Library 1.0 to something even better. In the rest of this post, and in more posts of this series, we will learn so much more about Slide Library 2.0

Yes, there is so much that is about to change. There is an entirely new way to make, manage, use and even think about the slides and decks that are so critical to businesses and other organizations.

A new discipline called Presentation Management is bringing decades-old presentation technology into the 21st century. In short, presentation management stores and manages slides in the cloud, so the slides can easily be used, reused, shared, updated, tracked and organized for the whole enterprise.

The slides become smart–embedded with data and analytics so you can actually gauge their performance. Machine-learning technology can learn about the slides in the system, understand what’s happening during a live presentation, and suggest slides to help the presenter instantly find a slide that matches the conversation in the room.

Most importantly, Presentation Management is a state of mind. It flips the very notion of a presentation on its head, making it more natural – like the way people used to talk and tell stories long before PowerPoint was invented. Slide decks force us to build rigid presentations that we must follow in order, no matter how the room is reacting or what questions get raised. (How many times have you heard: “Hold on, I’ll get to that slide in a minute,” when someone asks a question?) Presentation Management solves this problem. With Presentation Management, the slides follow the conversation instead of the other way around. Discuss a point, and the right supportive slide appears. Take a turn into an unplanned side topic, and the slides go along for the ride.

Presentation Management Shufflrr 01

Instead of presenting in meetings – which is a one-way lecture that quickly gets boring – this new approach means we will actually talk to each other, and always have the right supportive materials at the ready.

A growing number of companies are embracing a presentation management strategy. They range from U.S. Bank to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to major media companies, consulting groups and medical research labs. Companies that adopt presentation management find they get immediate benefits. They are also putting in place a system for changing the culture of presentations and making them more effective for years to come.

In the presentation management era, the dread of making, giving – or enduring! – a PowerPoint presentation can all but disappear.

This, then, is the story of presentation management and a guide on how to adopt it, make it work, and use it to drive change in your presentation culture.

In the next post of this Presentation Management series, we will look at what’s wrong with PowerPoint (as if you didn’t know already).


AlexAnndra Ontra
 
AlexAnndra Ontra, co-founder of Shufflrr, is a leading advocate for presentation management. She has been providing presentation technology and consulting services to global enterprises for over 15 years.

At Shufflrr, Alex advises Shufflrr clients through the process: from trial, to content architecture, through the launch, training and then on-going software upgrades. She’s hands-on. She is a leading expert in presentation management strategy, implementation, and adaptation.

 

James Ontra
 
James Ontra is co-founder and CEO of Shufflrr.  His 30-year career has focused on the highest profile presentations for world class companies.  His clients have included:  American Express, Bloomberg, Epcot Center, Mercedes Benz, NBC Olympics, Warner Bros. and many more.

His vision and strategy have been driving Presentation Management to become a recognized communication discipline.  James combined this passion with technical development to build Shufflrr. Presentation Management is smart communication strategy.

 

Geetesh Bajaj
 
Geetesh Bajaj is an awarded Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional), and has been designing and training with PowerPoint for more than two decades. He heads Indezine, a presentation design studio and content development organization based out of Hyderabad, India.

Geetesh believes that any PowerPoint presentation is a sum of its elements–these elements include abstract elements like story, consistency, and interactivity — and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. He explains how these elements work together in his training sessions. He has also authored six books on PowerPoint and Microsoft Office.


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