This is often how a manager starts a presentation design exercise. For her, it feels very comfortable: the 20 slides are in production, just fill them out, everything is under control. In the next meeting we can check against the agreed headlines and point out empty spots that still need to be completed.

Here is why I usually skip this stage of a project:

  • The slide headlines you can come up with at the start of a project are usually, hollow and descriptive: the market, the competitive advantage, the financials, the team. They do not contain any content
  • Even if you were to push them one level further (3 meetings later), you focus the attention of your manager on editing headlines and shuffling slides. There is the hard to resist urge to word smith the language for endless flow iterations. Still without the actual meat of the presentation.
  • "Empty" slide headlines are great to carve up a piece of work. Team member A gets this data, team member B focuses on that. But, creating the logical fact pack that solves the problem is different from creating the emotional presentation that will convince people to act upon the audience.

So, I actually dive straight in. Create the key slide that hammers home the key point of the presentation. I add backups that support this point (for example a new way to look at the competitive positioning in detail). I add place holders for less important stuff: the work plan going forward, the financials. These can be filled out later.

Meetings that discuss substance are so much more interesting and useful than meetings that discuss process, empty headlines and story flows of empty slides. 

Art: Gray and Gold, John Rogers Cox, 1942. Sign up for SlideMagic, subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter.

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