“I hate being presented to. Long, windy overhead presentations bore me to tears and I switch off when they’re on.

I don’t need to hear all the underlying research that lead to the conclusion presented on the final slide. What I need to hear is your recommendation and why you think it is the best course of action for us. That’s it. If I need to ask questions about the data or the supporting evidence then I’ll ask them. But if I don’t then leave it out. I need the process to be efficient and meaningful.

I don’t want to waste time – yours or mine. So get to the point and make it snappy”.

As close as I can remember that is how one of my large customers responded to a presentation I made to them about 10 years ago. It was blunt and harsh criticism but he was right. I treated his time as a luxury and not with the required level of professional courtesy that it deserved.

I had fallen into the trap of believing customers (or in fact anyone) would be impressed by long PowerPoint presentations (or discussions) that show how diligently I had researched a subject and how flashy my presentation was. I missed the point entirely. What is impressive is the quality of the insights, not the length or dazzle of the presentation.

He called me on it. Since then, I have never done it again.

These days I operate mostly without PowerPoint presentations and when I do I never use more than 4 or 5 slides and they are never “data heavy”. I use them as prompts more than anything. What I have found is that they slow me down and waste my time. I also don’t want to listen to them from others.

Nowadays in the era of the internet, information that might have difficult to obtain (or even proprietary) in the past is now more likely to be out in the public domain. It’s relatively easy to find and available to everyone. The real skill has evolved to the ability to take large volumes of information from multiple sources, distil it, and then construct concise, logical and easy to understand arguments that get to the point quickly in a compelling and unambiguous way.

The problem is that it is hard to do and I haven’t seen too many people do it well. However if you can get there by using 500 words (instead of 5,000) and only five minutes (not 50) then you’re well on your way…