How many times has this happened during a presentation? The presenter has just introduced themselves, opened their PowerPoint slide deck, and then blasts through the first four or five slides, dismissing them by saying, “I’m going to skip the Marketing slides.”
I find this happens all too often, and it reflects poorly on Marketing as a profession, as well as the Marketeers who most likely prepared those slides for the presenter. The audience concludes those slides are fluff, unnecessary, and/or meaningless. The troubling implication of the fact they were labeled Marketing slides is that means Marketing is not valued in that organization, or at least not by the presenter. And if Marketing is perceived as low value, or even useless, then we have a lot of work to do.
The opening slides are not unique to this dynamic. I’ve seen this same thing happen to supporting slides within the presentation. Typically, the audience chuckles and readily accepts this real-time edit, thankful to have been spared from some all too familiar pain. This always unsettles me too, because I believe that Marketing plays a critical role in the delivery of products/services in exchange for profitable revenue. How else will prospects become paying customers, unless they are made aware of, educated upon, compare, and commit to the value your company delivers? Unless you have a product/service that is so cool it warrants Orange Cone Selling, you need Marketing to package, message, and promote it.
Perhaps this criticism is well deserved. Many of us are guilty of including similar filler in our own presentations! So I challenge you to take the time to reconsider your slides. Make sure they don’t fall into these traps:
Are your slides relevant to your audience? Does your audience really care how many employees you have, or how much cash you have in the bank, or what your corporate margins are (this one could actually backfire on you, because if you are making so much money, then surely you can afford to give me a better price!)? If not, then take them out. There are times, for example when presenting to a Financial audience, that such slides make perfect dollars & sense. But, if you are speaking to a technical audience, they would be better served by one-slide review of why their company is considering you in the first place. Explain the market demand unique to your customer’s challenge, and set the stage for how your company solves the problem. Likewise, if your audience is filled with people with Financial and Sales backgrounds, better lose those detailed schematics and architectural diagrams and focus instead on the business problems your product/service addresses.
Are your slides intended to educate, or obfuscate? Customers know when they are being mislead, and slides that reflect intentional misdirection will only earn you the reputation of a bullshit artist. It’s ok to focus on your strengths, but don’t try to whitewash the weaknesses. Acknowledge your differences with competitors while seeking out what’s important to your prospects. A prospect may not even care that your product is a tad slower, priced higher, or in some way inferior to a competitor, because they are actually interested in some other killer feature that optimizes their business.
Are your slides too long? If it takes five slides to explain that your company has 1,000 employees and is based in an attractive, beautifully landscaped building in Silicon Valley, then you’re wasting time. Find a way to simplify the message.
Are your slides too complex? The culprit here is usually animation. PowerPoint animation can be a fun and useful tool, but less is more. Besides, your audience typically wants a copy afterwards – and your Legal department will probably want the slides to be locked in PDF. So spare the animation, and keep it as simple as possible.
Are your slides filled with logos? Avoid the dreaded logo slide at all costs. You’re not going to frighten your prospect into buying from you, just because their competitor does so. Save your marque account for a detailed use case instead. And unless Apple, Google, Ford, etc. are on public record for using your product/service, don’t promote them as such.
There are tons of links and even entire courses on how to make your presentations more effective. I’m particularly fond of You Suck At PowerPoint. So keep improving, keep challenging yourself, and try to avoid becoming the Snake Oil Salesman of our time. Soon enough, we will be skipping those “[insert some other department name besides Marketing here]” slides. 😉