I recently gave a pilot workshop at a large corporation that is considering adopting BBP training on a wide scale. I asked the group where they are with their current PowerPoint approach, and where they would like to be, and they came up with this list:
Today, our current approach to PowerPoint is:
- Overloading our audiences with too much information
- Throwing in everything but the kitchen sink
- Just doing a data dump
- Usually not communicating a good story
- Being too generic - one deck fits all
- Not succeeding at helping an audience remember key messages
- Creating decks that don't get used, or just one or two slides are pulled
- Not producing a crisp communication package
Where would we like to be is a place where we:
- Find a better approach for internal and external presentations
- Tell a clear story
- Increase our audiences' ability to remember
- Make our key messages clearer and more memorable
- Create cleaner and simpler communication
- Ensure the audience will take action
- Prompt conversation
- Find a way to easily customize and tailor presentations
The wide gap between the two lists at this well-known organization explains the growing sense of frustration that presenters, audiences and organizations are feeling today. (It's interesting that "better graphics" didn't make either list.) In spite of the widespread criticism of PowerPoint the past couple of years, the problem is not our lack of awareness of the situation -- it's painfully obvious that our current approach is broken, and that we need to fix it. The real problem is the lack of a practical solution that an entire team or organization can start applying today.
Writers, gurus and your next door neighbor will tell you that you should "tell a story," "be more visual," or "keep it simple". But how, exactly, do you do that, tomorrow morning, at 9am, at your computer monitor with your PowerPoint application open, with a deadline of the next morning? And, by the way, how do you do all that within the context, constraints and culture of your organization?
Part of the reason we haven't been able to solve the problem is that we're looking at the situation as an individual problem rather than an organizational problem. The reality is that PowerPoint is culture, and at any organization it is a specific culture of pre-determined templates, fonts and expectations. The only way to resolve the problem is for an entire organization to adopt a specific methodology -- a systematic process of producing consistent, reproducible, and quality results. The process has to work across the broadest range of topics and purposes, and yet allow variety within a set of constraints.
Will we ever get to the point that we can cross the wide PowerPoint gap between where we are, and where we want to be? Based on the growing interest I've seen lately, more and more organizations just might be ready to make the leap.