With a group of writers today watching an archived webcast of a presentation. Presenters were high-level folks at a very recognizable communications firm. My expectations were sky-high to hear what these respected thought leaders would have to say.Man, was I disappointed. First, let me say that given the choice, I will always choose a live presenter over a canned recording, and a recording of a person over a presentation-and-voice only recording. This was the last variety — at the low end of the presentation food chain. That said, I’ve seen some very effective presentations this way, and it’s a great way to sell content without being present. This was one of those money-making ventures by a leading group. And it stunk.I’m asked often how many slides a presentation should have. I usually respond that that is the wrong question. I’ve seen presentations with hundreds of slides that were great and presentations with no slides that were horrible. The number of slides is not the issue. Engage the audience and help them retain information. If slides is the way to do it, so be it, but don’t assume slides, and don’t assign a number.But this presentation had NO interaction, and stayed on the title slide for five minutes with three person transfers before showing any content. I should have taken a clue when the senior person in the room — a VP — walked out before the introduction slide was over. I finally walked out on slide 11, after 50 minutes of lecture (only two slides had any non-textual content — some of the slides had as many as 13 bullet points, every one was read, and there was absolutely nothing but one-way information dump.) Audience participation (there was a live web audience) was actually disabled.One tell-tale presenter content led to my departure: “If you’re looking at the slide numbers, you’ll see that we have a lot of material to cover and we’re behind schedule. We’ll still have our Q&A session even if we run over our 3pm deadline, but it will be cut short. We have a lot more material we really want to get to.” So, you don’t care what I want, you are only interested in getting through material. In that case, I shall go find content that I am interested in. THAT is prime reason why I counsel clients against the default of using slides — it is about covering content, and not providing communication value. I’d like to think a “name” in the communications consulting business knows Rule #1, but evidently that assumption is incorrect.On the bright side, this one (half) presentation will give me blog material for a week. Given what I know about this organization’s reputation and fee schedule, I’d have to say that there are much greater values out there, to be sure.
Engage your audience. Don’t assume slides do that for you.