July 22, 2021
There’s a real problem for anyone who needs to communicate with an audience to present ideas. People – them, you and us – no longer do what they used to.
Or certainly we prefer to read shorter. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ has become a cliché, but like all clichés it’s based on a fundamental truth. PowerPoint slides were attention-grabbing when they were first launched back in 1987. But now everyone uses them, they’re not going to make anyone read more than a handful of words, no matter how many fancy fonts or animations are thrown at them. The same goes for Keynote (note they’ve been around since 2003) and Google slides (2006).
So if someone does manage to get our attention for a few minutes, there’s a 50-50 chance it’s going to be on our mobile. Mobile now accounts for around half of all web traffic worldwide, and presents its own challenges for presenting.
By its very nature, mobile is often accessed on the move, when our attention is less focused.This makes it so much harder to ensure a message cuts through. Also, mobile screens are smaller and mobile interactions are different from others. This means information needs to be presented differently to make it easily accessible, understandable, and memorable. Expecting a meaty presentation – developed for desktops or conference rooms – to do its job on a mobile, is like expecting a conference room table to make phone calls.
At least we no longer make as many as we did. Emails have taken their place, with inboxes –according to Harvard Business Review in 2020 – containing an average of 200 messages. The average office worker then receives another 120 every day1, of which 55% are likely to be spam2.
Put those email stats together with what we know about PowerPoints and it’s pretty clear that the default mode of attaching a PowerPoint to an email is one of the least effective ways to grab attention, hold interest, or achieve any kind of communication at all.
But let’s generously assume that someone does find a way to get through to us. Unfortunately, we no longer pay attention to stories told in the same old way. We’re all far too sophisticated.
Logical structure may be the logical thing to follow, but it doesn’t encourage engagement. Just think about any recent TV drama you’ve watched. Chances are, you were dropped straight into the action at point C, before the story went back to A, then on to B, and then skipped straight on to Z. But were you gripped? Of course you were.
If a teenager can put something together on their phone that goes viral worldwide, then the professionals have to try so much harder to achieve cut-through, engagement and memorability.
That’s why a free guide to 27 Creative tips for your Presentations could be just what your presentations need. Some of the suggestions are surprising. All are effective. And they can help your presentations to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.