PowerPoint goes berserk

As investor relations professionals, we’ve all seen PowerPoint slides that get just a little bit out of control. Too many bullets, too many words, too many pictures – the CEO makes one more addition – and a visual aid turns into a visual Frankenstein.

For your weekend enjoyment, I thought I’d share this slide – from a consultant’s presentation to a group of US generals – as reported by the UK’s Daily Mail:

Yes, someone got a little carried away. “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” quipped Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US and NATO force commander.

This slide has nothing to do with IR – as far as I can tell – but I have seen graphic concoctions at brokerage conferences that come close to this level of complexity. The spaghetti bowl above reminds me of one “business model” slide I saw.

In our eagerness to tell everyone everything, we can become indecipherable. We must remember that IR is about getting people to quickly grasp our story – to understand, not to be wowed by management’s quantum mechanics-style thinking.

Some quick tips on PowerPoint slides:

  • Consider doing without. Some CEOs tell a more compelling story by simply talking. Depending on the setting, no slides can be very effective.
  • Limit the overall number. Fifty is settle-in-for-a-nap time (sorry if I offend). Twenty is a more palatable presentation for already distracted investors. The marathon analysts’ day is a different story – but, still, don’t get carried away, and build in some breaks from the daylong visual bombardment.
  • Each slide should make a point. It should have a single purpose. The point may be “Our 5-point strategy aims to drive EBITDA,” but the takeaway for an investor is the outcome, more than the 5 individual priorities.
  • Use the 6 by 6 rule. That is, 6 bullets of 6 words each – as a maximum per slide. Even that’s a lot of words.
  • Consider the magic of 3. Some experts swear by the psychological appeal of 3 things – 3 points, 3 bullets, 3 whatever – to make a memorable impression.
  • Graphics or pictures must serve the content. It’s not about eye candy. Visuals must help the listener understand – your finances, customers, markets, strategies or science. Illustrate for clarity.

I recognize the culture in some countries – hello, European IR folks – favors more complex slides. Mine is a US-centric view. But the core message still applies.

Take two steps back and look at your slides. Use that “View Slide Show” command in PP and imagine you’re a member of the audience watching and trying to listen.

Bottom line: Clear and simple tell the story.

Here are a few previous ideas on good slides, bad slides and surprises in presentations. What’s your pet peeve or best practice for slides?

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One Response to “PowerPoint goes berserk”

  1. Tweets that mention PowerPoint goes berserk « IR Café -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by irbloggers, Simon Steiner. Simon Steiner said: RT @irbloggers: PowerPoint goes berserk http://dlvr.it/jW69 (via @irwebreport) […]

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