PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff

Become a PowerPoint Guru: Conversation with David Tracy

David Tracy has worked as a management consultant for 12 years. During this time, he worked at a number of firms, from strategy boutiques to global, full-service consultancies. His clients have included burgeoning startups to Fortune 50 corporations, spanning North America, Europe, and Asia; and across a number of industries, including high-tech, consumer products, life sciences, entertainment, and telecommunications.

In this conversation, David talks about his Become a PowerPoint Guru e-book, and more.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your approach to creating presentations that you explain in your e-book.

David: Sure. The approach discussed in my book details how management and strategy consulting firms develop business presentations. This approach covers two topics: 1) storyboarding; and 2) slide design.

Regarding the first topic, storyboarding is the process used by consultants to weave a cohesive story through a presentation. This process leverages frameworks like Minto’s Pyramid and the MECE Principle. On a high level, the methodology begins by gathering your information and structuring it into a hierarchy of key statements, supporting statements, and sub-points. Based on the horizontal and vertical relationships within your story, it is then translated into a business presentation.

Regarding the second topic of slide design, management consultants use a fairly extensive set of guidelines to create slides that are both rich in content and aesthetically appealing. These guidelines begin with the Consulting Presentation Framework, which includes specific rules for grammar, font faces, and font sizes. This ensures the overall presentation has a consistent look and feel.

These guidelines also govern how one should present qualitative information, quantitative data, and for different types of audiences and stakeholders. For instance, these guidelines will address the following questions. When depicting correlation, what types of charts do I have at my disposal? Is it better to use a scatter plot, bubble chart, or even a radar diagram?

Geetesh: How do the slides created by business consulting firms like McKinsey or Deloitte differ from those created by other enterprise users.

David: Foremost, it is important to mention the final product delivered by a consulting firm like McKinsey is often a PowerPoint presentation. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative for this document to be perfect (or as close to perfection as possible). It needs to justify the high price clients end up paying!

As such, consulting firms have invested tremendous effort and money in developing practices and tools related to presentation development. When you take a typical McKinsey slide versus a general business slide, you will undoubtedly notice a stark contrast in look. Here are 3 of the more obvious differences.

  1. Usage of the slide’s title section (top portion of slide)

    A consultant will introduce the slide with a 1- to 2-line sentence. An enterprise user will use a short phrase instead; e.g. “Pros and Cons of Social Media.”

  2. Volume of content

    No real estate is wasted on a consultant’s slide. It generally contains both qualitative and quantitative information, displayed in one or more diagrams, and presented with some top-down or left-to-right flow. The consultant’s presentation is designed as a standalone document that can be distributed throughout an organization. An enterprise user slide usually has sparsely placed content (e.g. 3-5 bulleted sentences). A key resulting difference is the enterprise user presentation cannot exist as a true standalone document. Rather, it requires a companion verbal track to ensure the audience receives the intended take-away from the slide.

  3. Consistency across slides

    If you skim through a consultant’s presentation, the look and feel remains consistent. This is because they follow specific guidelines of font face, font size, colors, positioning, diagrams, techniques, etc. For instance, content is sourced at the bottom left of the slide in Arial size 10. Most presentations created by enterprise users lack this consistency. For instance, as you go from slide to slide, you will notice the slide titles vary in font size.

Categories: design, interviews, opinion, powerpoint,

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