One common cause of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is trying to kill two birds with one stone – producing a presentation and a leave-behind at the same time. As a result both get done badly. As Jerry Weissman points out in The Art of Winning, there’s a lot of confusion between presentations and documentation.
“The Presentation-as-Document Syndrome represents one of the most common underlying problems that plague presentations. Presenters have become so accustomed to relying on graphics, especially PowerPoint slides, that they often think of the presentation as a mere accompaniment to those aids. In fact, many people act as if the presentation is completely dispensable. They’ll say, ‘I can’t attend your presentation next week. But it doesn’t matter. Just send me your slides!’ Or they sometimes say, ‘Send me your slides in advance.’ The PowerPoint slides then are treated as handouts.’”
Problems often arise when a written document, such as a report or proposal, is re-purposed into a presentation. If there’s not much time, or the presenter isn’t aware of the PowerPoint/leave-behind issue, the slides can end up containing way too much information. You need two documents:
Your PowerPoint presentation, which should have as few words as necessary
Your leave behind, which will have lots of background details, information and data
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