The power of presentation culture

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A woman giving a presentation to illustrate presentation culture

Are presentations in your organisation too formal? Are there simply too many of them? Simon Morton, CEO of Eyeful Presentations, urges leaders to cast a critical eye over their presentation culture

What leaps to mind when the word ‘presentation’ is uttered in your business? If your immediate response is ‘PowerPoint’, you’re not alone.

Of course, this is illogical. PowerPoint is merely a piece of software –performing only the tasks you assign to it. Business’s Pavlovian PowerPoint response highlights a deeply embedded organisational issue that we term ‘presentation culture’ – and it’s failing businesses and their audiences every day.

Symptoms of poor performing presentation cultures range from an over reliance on software like PowerPoint to a general acceptance that presentations are, and will always be, a tedious necessity of business life (like taxes and CRM systems). In short, poor presentation cultures arise when leaders forget how valuable and powerful presentations can be.

The irony is that most modern-day presentation maladies are lumped under one catch-all title – ‘Death by PowerPoint’ – where in the reality, the software is the least of the problems. While the likes of Amazon and Diageo publicly denounce PowerPoint in an attempt to get things back on track, there is a sense that this is treating the symptom rather than addressing the root cause of the issue.

Our experience shows that business leaders’ energy is better spent looking for any tell-tale signs that all is not well with the presentation culture within their business:

  • Your business spends an increasing amount of time preparing, delivering or listening to presentations

It’s a question of balance – spending too much time obsessing over slides rather than message is a waste of time. Equally, cutting corners when preparing and rehearsing a presentation demonstrates a lack of respect for your audience.

  • Your presentations finish on a ‘thank you’ rather than a clear call to action

Any presentation is of absolutely no value if it fails to prompt its audience to do something as a result. After all, isn’t this the reason you’re presenting in the first place?

  • There is an active ‘black market’ for slides within your business

Too many external presentations include slides that either non-compliant or off-message. It’s the guilty secret no-one wants to confront.

The Net Result

The impact of a poor presentation culture is all too familiar – disinterested audiences, wasted opportunities and, put bluntly, a complete waste of everyone’s time.

So, with stakes this high, where do you start to promote a positive presentation culture?

Focus #1 – Audience, audience, audience

Audiences are the true arbiter of a presentation’s success or failure. In return for them giving that most precious of assets – their time, respect your audience by keeping presentations short, snappy and of real value to them.

Focus #2 – Raise the presentation bar

From the top down, promote and reinforce best practice (this does not mean placing legions of people on PowerPoint skills courses – fancy software skills do not create great presentations, people do). Share examples of great presentations and provide easy access to quality content which will engage your audiences.

Focus #3 – Best practice is everyone’s responsibility

Demonstrating and reinforcing the value of great Presentation Culture needs to be shared by everyone. Initiatives will burn brightly and then fade away unless business leaders sustain an organisational shift, ensuring that great presentation culture becomes an ‘unconsciously competent’ method of working.

And now it’s over to you…

Presentation culture is something we all have a responsibility to manage, especially from the top of the business. The benefits range from the obvious (improved communication, increased efficiency) through to the happy accidents (a new appetite for innovation, cohesive teams).

The ball is in the hands of business leaders – after all, your new presentation culture starts with you…

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About author

Simon Morton

Simon Morton

Simon Morton is the CEO of Eyeful Presentations, a presentation support and PowerPoint design agency

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