Most business presentations can be neatly divided into two component parts: content and performance. Content development can be time consuming, especially when it comes to creating media – most often slideware –to use in your presentation. We can labor too long over choosing the just the right slide template, palette, graphic and video that comprise our presentation deck.
Large sales organizations, that create and deliver hundreds of presentations, may discover there’s a lot of reinventing the wheel and duplication of effort in the creation of slide decks by their sales forces. And according to AlexAnndra and James Ontra at Shufflrr, that inefficiency can be avoided with the introduction of a comprehensive content management system: what they call Presentation Management.
They’ve published a little book on the subject that’s available on their website. They do a good job of laying out the issues, strategies and solutions they offer to improve enterprise-wide slide management. Much like document and version control protocols for legal departments, good slide management can save a company time, effort (resources) and ensure better consistency in messaging by archiving the components of their decks and slides in a generally accessible cloud.
The book bravely looks ahead to the integration of AI and the ways that AI might affect performance for presentations and meetings in general – in the sense that real-time presentation [slide] content could anticipate or be more responsive to audience questions as they arise.
Getting everyone on the same page
I always stress that your deck is not your presentation – and may even be considered the least important part of your presentation – but good media can go a long way to making a good presentation a great presentation. A centralized and shared repository for decks, individual slides and slide components can be an invaluable resource and tool for any large organization. Especially, an organization that benefits from timeliness, frequency and consistency of message. I think this may be increasingly true for all companies as the deck format has largely replaced memos, whitepapers, and even Wiki’s and information sharing apps as repositories for institution-wide knowledge. A searchable company data base of presentation decks makes sense: it’s the new corporate library.
The author’s leverage the principles of AI to make presentation decks “smarter.” By tracking when, where and how etc. slides are used, they’re working to add/improve predictive capability: e.g. at this point in the presentation, you’re likely to get a question that can be answered/addressed with this slide. All good stuff. I can definitely see how this could be helpful in managing Q&A, but it begs the question: who controls the narrative of the presentation: the presenter or the audience? It’s easy to see the appeal of a heightened responsiveness to the priorities of the audience as paramount in sales. But in general, presenters need to control their message and we shouldn’t be too quick to surrender our agenda or narrative flow to fickle audiences.
The fantasy of those who are challenged when it comes to preparing and delivering presentations is always a presentation that runs itself. But as executives, we need to demonstrate managerial competence by running the presentation. PERSONALLY. Not like a DJ, spinning slides, but a manager leveraging space, audiences, and narratives in real time with clear and cogent messaging.
On the technology side, security for sensitive information stored centrally will always be a big issue. Certainly, relative to agents outside of the organization, but also internal agents. Some information needs to be restricted and can make those on the other side of any locked door wonder what they are missing.
On the application side, taxonomy is the biggest challenge that I see: developing an effective taxonomy at the slide, component and idea levels that is broadly adopted and easily applied. If I need a graphic that shows X and Y, what search terms do I use? Is the person doing the tagging for archiving purposes fully understand the meaning and purpose of the material well enough to do a good job of tagging. Otherwise, you can quickly default back to the usual file management constructs we all currently use: author, title, date, etc. Or rely on thumbnail images: does that slide look like what you are searching for? I think this actually has the most exciting potential: to develop a common language to describe the standard components we use in the common presentations.
And, as in any creative endeavor, there is some pride of ownership in the development of content. Especially for senior managers. They like to have some things be original and unique to them. The general availability of components is good, but the creation and delivery of the final message may always require the human and personal touch.
Finally, I believe that the unexpected is the life blood of good presentations. I’d likely feel about a fully automated and responsive presentation the way I feel about phone trees. Yeah, I get the business benefit. But boy they’re boring, impersonal and predictable.
The authors have thought a lot about most of the challenges and have had extensive experience in developing technology solutions to address the challenges they face. Their book is worth a read.