A necessary evil - The hygiene of business presentations

I love numbers. I didn’t study Finance and stochastic differential equations to spend hours editing slides in PowerPoint; nobody does.

You specialize in an area because you find it interesting. For me, it happened to be problem-solving and math. For others, it might be design or writing. Whatever your passion, I firmly believe that you need to spend countless hours practicing to become a master at your craft. And let’s be honest; spending countless hours becomes a whole lot easier if you pursue a career that excites you. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like practice.

For me, spending numerous hours in Excel is exciting because it develops into a useful skill. The reward of applying that skill to a problem and coming up with a solution you know is right is worthwhile. It was this appetite for problem-solving and numbers, along with a healthy amount of determination and grit, that led me to McKinsey and ultimately to start my own business. It was not my ability to align text boxes in PowerPoint.

At McKinsey I reaped the reward of having spent hours calculating ROIC and doing advanced regressions. I thrived on using my specialist abilities to tackle real problems and add value to companies. But I couldn’t escape the fact that I had to use PowerPoint – often for several hours a day.

One of my mentors taught me the value of quality slides and professionalism in a business setting; having a killer slide deck is a prerequisite to selling your solution.

Remember, if everyone in the boardroom already agreed with you, you wouldn’t have to give the presentation in the first place.

Flawless business presentations are a hygiene factor, really. Think of PowerPoint as a basic skill that must be on point - even though you hate it and it is not your area of expertise. You wouldn’t be tempted to present incorrectly calculated EBIDTA %, would you? Why cut corners with your slides?

If your alignment, coloring, use of font sizes, ability to follow the corporate guidelines etc. is questionable, those errors will become the center of attention – rather than the analysis you perfected. The presentation might only account for 10% of your time but poor visuals risk having a negative impact on 100% of the actual work you put in. As a consultant, the slide deck is your only “product”; it should look flawless without drawing attention from your actual message.

The visual design of a brilliant business presentation is instantly forgotten – that is the whole point.

To this day, I still “hate” PowerPoint, but I do believe that it is a necessary evil to get most messages across. That being said, what is actually worse than the thought of me doing PowerPoint, is seeing a highly-trained engineer who could potentially be solving complex problems, trying instead to align text boxes or find the right colors; it is simply a waste of talent. In the same way, business professionals should be focusing on what they do best and have access to business support for the rest. That is why I created SlideHub– to allow the world’s businesses to focus on what they do best.

So, the next time you look at your to-do list, ask yourself which tasks add value and delegate the rest to us. The tasks you are specialized in should be the ones you prioritize – after all, your passion led you there in the first place.

You're invited

Are you finding yourself in PowerPoint chaos and want to win more business?

Anders Haugbølle Thomsen

CEO and Founder of SlideHub

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