Management consultants produce tons of charts that might look professional, but in most cases, they are actually not that good. (Most management consultants will admit this if you ask them).

Why does this happen?

PowerPoint is a slide design tool that can be used in many ways. 

  1. The tool to create beautiful keynote address slides
  2. A quick canvas to jot down an analysis
  3. An alternative to a word processor that is better at handling graphics, tables, and shapes

Management consultants use PowerPoint as 2. and 3., and forget to make the jump to 1. after they are done with the analysis. Most verbal presentations go OK, management consultants are usually reasonable presenters and when a horribly dense slide goes up on the screen, the explanation is usually clear.

Still, the visuals can be better, and here are some steps to clean things up based on the work I did for a management consulting client yesterday.

  • Cut sentences down to the essence and leave out filler/buzz words. This is probably the biggest improvement you can make. "Value creation potential", "customer success journeys", "centers of excellence" you know what I mean
  • Rethink the basic setup of a page. Sometimes you start of with a straw man or template: a number of rows with "category" - "elaboration" for example. After you filled out the whole thing, maybe the categories are not right, maybe you don't need the categories because they say exactly the same thing as the elaboration. 
  • If you are left with some bullet points, at least make sure that they line up properly, have a small indent, and leave more than 2 words on one line
  • Add movement to your slides. If there is a sequence, put the boxes in sequence. If there is an impact, use an arrow to point at something, if there is an overlap, draw a circle
  • Don't repeat the headline message in a bubble on the chart, one is enough
  • Make sure all slides follow the template: headlines in the same font, in the same place, if the headline does not fit, cut words until it does, do not be tempted to reduce fonts, or go beyond the margins
  • Try making shapes without box lines around them, usually colours have enough contrast. This makes the slide a lot calmer
  • Clean up logo pages: use the latest ones, use high res logos, line them up properly. If things get too cluttered, make them black and white, or fall to back to just names. Not every company name needs to be expressed in a logo.

A fairly random list with tips to make better consulting presentations. There is one theme though. Separate slides you use to solve a problem/do your analysis, from slides you use to communicate a recommendation. They are completely different.