Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Power Point "Disaster"

"Oh No!" Bob was in BIG trouble.  He had just plugged his laptop into the projector in the conference room, but now he couldn't locate his Power Point slide deck—the one he had just spent all night tweaking. The CEO and his team would be arriving any minute now to hear Bob's presentation on a new software product.

Bob had had high hopes for this presentation.  He had noticed that, during his previous presentations, the CEO had always seemed distracted and not paying attention.  Bob's proposals usually ended up low priority and not funded.  But, this time, Bob had made sure that the CEO would notice!  He added lots of colorful details to his presentation, pictures, sounds, and animations.

Now, he thought with a sigh, he would have nothing.

Just then, Bob's friend Norman walked in.  He immediately saw the look on Bob's face, and asked him what was wrong.  "I lost my presentation!"

"What?", said Norman.

"My whole presentation.  All of it!  I can't find the file and the meeting is about to begin..."

"Relax! Focus. You don't need Power Point, Bob.  You're the expert.  You KNOW what message you want to get across."

"But Norman, I don't know how to organize it! And the CEO is walking into the room now!"

"Get a grip! Can you draw a simple box?"

"Sure, I can do that."

"Then draw a simple box.  Then think of a way to make the box convey your message, simple and succinctly."

The presentation started and Bob drew a simple square box.  As he stopped to think for a moment, he could feel the CEO look at the box—and then look at Bob.  Finally, after what felt to him like 5 minutes (but was actually less than 30 seconds), Bob drew a horizontal axis called "reactive" and "proactive".  He then drew a vertical axis labelled "hi quality" and "low quality".

"The upper left side of the box represents a reactive, but high quality product.  This is our current flagship product.  Our customers love it, but we mostly attract large companies who are not cutting edge.  Meanwhile, the smaller, faster growing innovative companies go with Acme, because they stay right on the cutting edge, but their quality is not good.  They have a lot of complaints, and their customers have to constantly apply patches and upgrades.  We have a golden opportunity here to capture these companies, with a more proactive, lesser version of our flagship product, that still keeps its reliability."

Instead of being distracted and tired, the CEO was excited!  "I've been sitting through Power Point presentations all day, and was dreading another, but you made a great presentation.  Short, quick, and focused!  I totally understand what you're proposing, and I agree!.  We'll do it!"

And with that, the CEO left.

Later, Norman congratulated Bob.  "They are going with your idea and putting you in charge.  You'll have lots of meetings now."

"Yes, but I'm ditching the large, complicated slide decks.  I realize now that complexity was holding back my success in presentations.  From now on, I'm just going to draw simple boxes on paper or white board.  As a bonus, no more worrying about audio-visual glitches!"

© 2019 Praveen Puri

Praveen Puri is the Strategic Simplicity® expert who has delivered over $400 million in value. He helps clients "weaponize" simplicity and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Visit