Great Idea + Poor Presentation = ?

If these were the choices, which one would you choose?

  • Poor Idea + Great Presentation?
  • Great Idea + Poor Presentation?

In the academic world, the latter is perfectly fine. I think this is where most managers learn how to make really bad presentations – in b-school. No one argues with the finance/ marketing/ strategy professor who puts slide after slide of mind-numbing data and lines of bullet points. Instead, we imitate them.

However, with attention spans constrained by the new mail pop-up, the former equation seems to work. I am not making a value judgment, this is not how we want things to be. But this is how presentations seem to work. Form is at least as important as function, as I experienced in a painfully sleep-deprived way in last week’s consulting case competition at Babson.

Which finally brings me to the point of this post: If at b-school, poor quality presentations are commonly accepted as the standard, then two things happen:

1. Few appreciate a great presentation. If you do it well, no one notices it. If you put in the hours, your team does not see it. What the audience eventually feels is – “That is a great idea”. However, make a bad presentation, filled with lines of text. Then everyone knows it was a pathetic job, even though no one may be able to pin-point why.

It’s like a building with a weak foundation. If the foundation is good, it gets ignored completely. If it is bad, the building will most likely crash (the audience will remain unconvinced, if they are still awake).

2. Anyone can achieve excellence. If no one knows how to do a good job, and if everyone is satisfied with pathetic output, then the first person to do something even mildly better than the others, makes an impressive impact.

As MBA students, this is the choice we have: Shall we continue to revel in our intellectual arrogance and throw data at the audience, without seeing how they receive it? Or shall we take this opportunity to understand how to stand and deliver quality presentations to hook hearts, heads and hopefully, wallets.

The choice is ours.

Published in: on May 2, 2008 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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