Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Presentation Overkill

The NY Times recently published an article titled "Powerpoint makes us stupid". It's about the use of power point within the US Miltary and how too much focus on the presentations can distract from the solving the problems at hand. We've all felt this way at some point... "I could be working on something a lot more important if I didn't have to pull together this presentation".

But as product managers, presentations are ingrained in our jobs. Whether it's power point, wikis or white papers we have to convey important messages about our products: Revenue to biz dev, roadmaps to customers, education to sales force and so on. Here are some quick presentation success tips so that you are not wasting your time or that of your audience.

  • Keep it to the point
    Don't put paragraphs in bullets. The bullets are there as a reminder or review of your presentation. They are not meant to be read as a book. If you need to get into that level of detail, consider a technical white paper format instead.

  • Don't over complicate
    Use the "notes" section for extraneous details and resources. If YOU need more than a few words in the bullets to remind yourself, then you probably shouldn't be giving the presentation.

  • Don't re-invent the wheel
    Make a quick stockpile of collateral, a presentation for different audiences that you can refresh on the fly when requested, for example you should be able to easily produce the following presentations on your product
    • Executive Pitch
    • Technical Focus
    • Education (i.e. Sales or End Users)
    • Competitive Comparison

  • Record yourself giving the presentation
    You are your own worst critic. Listen to yourself and ask, "Would I sit through this?" Listen as if you know nothing about the topic and wonder what questions would you ask of this speech

  • Enroll in Toast Masters
    Yes, they are for speeches, but the better you understand an audience and standing in front of one, the better you will be at presentations and how to formulate and focus them

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