Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Words of business wisdom

Originally posted at my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

Google's lesson on presentations

Presentations matter, and this week we have been provided with a good example that proves the point well.

This week Google have entered the mobile phone market. Their phone, the Nexus, is the company’s bid to join the likes of Apple at the top of the smart phone market. The launch took place at Google’s Mountainview campus in California and… well… it sucked.

Above you can see a picture from the “big” event. I am not really quite sure what Google were thinking of when they decided to launch of the Nexus in this manner. To begin with it appears as though they had no more than a few dozen reporters and bloggers in the room, they also appear to have used a screen completely incapable of projecting pictures with any sort of clarity or contrast and finally, the presenter appears to have resigned himself to standing behind an old overhead projector/lectern which isn’t even in use. The whole affair seems awfully amateurish.

Compare this to the launch of a similar phone 2 years ago. Mr. Jobs always puts on a show and didn’t disappoint with his launch of the iPhone. Jobs’ presenting style is the stuff of legend and has even been the subject of one or two books. He practises tirelessly and makes sure that everything is just perfect… he most certainly doesn’t stand behind a podium. He also ensures that his slides are perfect… I can’t imagine that Steve Jobs would have settled for a small room with a screen washed out with too much light.

Some people might say “hey it’s just a presentation, what’s the big deal”, well the problem is that these product launch presentations are a vital piece of the marketing process and like it or not journalists who are uninspired or confused by your product launch pitch will write uninspired and confused articles about your product. Or perhaps write nothing at all.

When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone tech bloggers and journalists whipped the web up into an utter frenzy with articles about the new phone, when Google launched the Nexus with their lukewarm presentation the journalists appear to have relied with a collective shrug of the shoulders.

CNBC’s “Fast Money” news segment even took time to actively slate the presentation (one of the analysts even called the presenter a “Johnson”, an American reference lost on me perhaps), the presentation has now not only created little interest it has attracted negative coverage… this really isn’t the way things should have gone.

This week Google taught us a lesson, presentations matter.

Originally posted on my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

World's worst slides award goes to...

My interest in this topic stemmed from a tweet posted by Garr Reynolds @presentationzen: “Holy what’s the plan in Afghanistan, Batman!” Does this PowerPoint clear things up? http://snipurl.com/tyvxc h/t @Durf

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We have all seen our fair share of bad presentations, if you have not yet been subjected to many bad presentations then you are privileged individual indeed, just don’t expect it to last.

In reality, although bad presentations might put us to sleep, waste our time and be totally ineffective all they really do at worst is waste our resources – be they time or money – but hey at least it’s not a case of life or death, people still leave the boardroom alive, bored… but alive.

If a presentation were to be dealing with a topic sufficiently important that it could potentially result in the life or death of numerous individuals you would surely expect that the presenter would want to ensure that the slides used got the information across in the most effective, understandable and memorable way possible… right?

Well, it would seem that not everybody thinks like that. In the past few years a number of internal presentations from the United States Army have been leaked into the public domain and my god are they bad. These slideshows do not just exhibit the normal levels of incompetence that we have come to know and… love, but instead take powerpoint (and audience) abuse to whole new levels.

Take for example the slide below, there is a message there somewhere in the slide, really there is… but the chance of every member of the audience achieving an understanding of this message by the time the presenter has moved on to the next slide is surely as close to zero as you can get.

Exhibit 2 (below) is – although you might have thought it impossible – even more ridiculous than the first. I understand where the presenter is coming from though, I believe I used to draw diagrams like that when I was younger. I would sit at the kitchen table with a box of crayons and a juice box and just keep drawing swirls around the page at random, however at that time I was 2 years old… and I wasn’t trying to run an army engaged in a war.

Now while I make fun of these very poor powerpoint slides, there is a serious point to be made, if your audience can’t understand the message you are trying to tell them, you need to change the way you are telling them. These US Army slides are so ineffective that I find it hard to believe that they are any use to anyone whatsoever, and although the issues they are dealing with are undoubtedly complicated they still need to be communicated well. Perhaps they should all sit down together, watch this talk by Hans Rosling and read some books by Edward Tufte to get a crash course on how to communicate complex information.

Originally posted at my company blog @ www.clearlypresentable.wordpress.com