if this sounds a little familiar. Someone calls a meeting
and as you enter the room you see an electronic projector
connected to a laptop computer with a very PowerPoint-looking
template projected on screen. Our conditioning, based on these
simple observations, tell us that, although this is called
a meeting, theres going to be a lot more one-way communication
than usual. After all, thats what PowerPoint does best
right? Not necessarily.
A prospective client flew me down to California for a meeting to determine
if I was the right consultant partner to solve a specific problem his organization
was having. As I walked into the mahogany appointed executive conference room,
I was keenly aware that the 10 decision makers around the table were not in
unanimous agreement about bringing in a consultant to help solve their corporate
presentation problems. You could see it on their faces. Theyd been losing
millions of dollars in lost contracts and had no idea where to begin. As I started
into my opening comments, I could see many of them settling back into their
soft leather chairs for the long pitch. Theyd sat through hundreds of
these before so they thought. This type of passive participation is the
kiss of death for a consultant and any presenter looking to truly involve his
A few minutes into the meeting, I came to a screen in my presentation that
simply said, "What are the top three reasons youre losing contracts
due to your presentations?" I paused and looked slowly around the table,
sat down in my chair (so I was at eye level with the executives), hit the escape
key in PowerPoint to bring me back to PowerPoints editing mode and prepared
to capture their ideas. After a few awkward moments, something interesting began
to happen. At first the comments were slow to come. After all, I was breaking
a long-standing corporate paradigm about presentations. The executives around
the table began to sit up and lean forward in their chairs. Their comments now
began to appear on "the big screen." The input began coming faster
and with more passion. Now they were not only interacting with me but also each
other in challenging the answers that were too pat. I asked permission of the
group in updating information or paraphrasing longer commentaries so we stayed
in "agreement." As we quickly ran out of room on the PowerPoint screen
I then asked, "How would you order the top three?" We started sliding
bullets around and within a few minutes there was general consensus. From my
perspective, we had managed to do in 10 minutes what would have taken 10 weeks
if I had tried to create consensus via e-mail or voice mail with the same group.
Consultants can never help design solutions when there is no agreement on the
I jumped back into my prepared presentation but now with the sharpened focus
of those around the table. They were listening more intently because I had taken
the time to listen to them. Twenty minutes into my prepared presentation I asked,
"What are you looking for in a consultant partner?" Now they were
ready as I exited out of the presentation process and we once again went interactive.
The list filled up even quicker this time but now with information that was
critical to my success. They had just provided the road map for my ability
to capture this major contract.
I liked the way this presentation went, but I understand that corporate cultures
play a large role in how free individuals feel to share their ideas. This meeting
could have had a very different outcome in a "top-down" managed company
where intimidation colors individual contributions. Collaboration won the day,
however, and the best part is that they learned a new use for a tool residing
on all their desktops. Its like when you discover a $20 bill in your billfold
that you didnt know you had. Its always a good day when we find
something of great value where we least expected it.
About Jim Endicott
Jim Endicott is owner/manager of Distinction, based in Portland, Oregon,
a business communications company offering creative and consulting services
to corporate America. Jim writes a monthly column for PRESENTATIONS magazine
and delivers seminars nationally on effective presentation design and delivery.
In addition to animation and Web site development, Distinction has established
a core expertise in the creation of presentation messaging and graphics. For
more information, visit www.distinction-services.com.
© Copyright 1999 Distinction
Communications. All rights reserved.
How to Create a Meaningful
One Hour PowerPoint Presentation