We’ve talked about Presentation Zen before, but there are times when you have to deliver detailed messages to a senior audience and for those times, a pretty photo and a single line of writing just won’t hold up.
But avast! as any PowerPoint pirates might say, there be danger ahead!
Too many detail-type presentations fail when the rep has so much detail to explain that he ends up reading his heavily bulleted slides to the audience - and the audience duly responds by catching up with some z’s behind a craftily positioned laptop screen.
However, there is one way to structure your deck to capture the attention of the most senior person in the room for enough time to put the message across and ask for action, even if the slides are stuffed with detail.
And it’s something that’s even more important if you’re planning to use the same slide deck as a giveaway after the show is over.
It’s the Action Title at the top of every slide.
The Action Title is just one sentence that summarises exactly what you want to say with this slide. It’s the most important message on the slide. It’s the conclusion, the insight gleaned from the supporting material on the slide. All other messages are subordinate to it.
The theory is that the top guy in the room could read just the Action Titles on each slide and he would know exactly what the story is and what action you’re expecting of him.
The beauty of the Action Title is that when you’ve built your deck, you can run a quick sanity check just by reading the top line on each slide.
Let’s have an example! If you’re looking to help a telco transform its IT department, instead of titling the slide
“Current State of IT Dept. in 2016”,
... use something like
“Your IT function costs 25% more than Deutsche and Orange and spends most of its budget on commodity IT services.”
Now there will be people that don’t just want to see the conclusion, but also how you got to it. For those, you have to provide the slide title and the slide contents.
The Slide Title sits under the Action Title– and states the content of the slide. In our example slide, it would be something like “IT spend by type”
And then you have the actual content in the body of the slide. This contains supporting evidence for the Action Title. And only the amount of supporting data needed to justify the Action Title is necessary – so in our example, a chart showing IT spend by type for the three telcos in the Action Title would work well. Anything more is distracting and superfluous.
A deck with Action Titles is easier to skim-read and more likely to catch attention. It’s also a great way to remind the decision-maker that there’s a decision to be made and to be extremely explicit about what that decision is. And finally, if you're not going to prepare a special leave-behind document, then this works well for that purpose too.
Have a look at your last customer presentation. Could it have been made stronger by the use of Action Titles?
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