Effective audience-centric presentations

I work within a communications group with a French corporate headquarters and am always amazed at the number of bullets and words and data packed into every slide for most of their presentations.  It’s a cultural thing. Or is it? Truth be told, I once worked for the British MD of an investment bank (back office) who had the same approach.

When it’s important to make a point, you add a bullet, and when the slide is full you add another slide.

Then you read the slide to the audience.

In one case, I was asked to present results of an employee survey conducted by our colleagues in Paris; 150+ slides with the summary at the end.  Assuming the audience was conscious, even alive, by the time they got to the summary was a pretty long-odds bet.  (I of course deleted about 125 slides.)

To be fair, I’ve been just as … well, occasionally perhaps nearly as … guilty myself on occasion.  I finally had a chance to speak to one of my French colleagues about this.  Their response was that “Yes, but what if they see the presentation itself without the oral information?  They won’t know what you were saying! Idiot!”  (Last word was impled rather than stated).

My response was, shouldn’t you make the presentation as engaging and interesting as possible, and if you need to provide detail for those not in attendance that can be done in a handout or takeaway?

To quote an Elvis Costello song, “There are some things I shan’t report / The memory of their last retort / Things really haven’t changed that much / One of us is still getting paid too much.”   It was as if I was speaking a different language.  Which, in fact, I was and not just linguistically.


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