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Context beats content every time

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November 16th, 2015 Donovan de Souza

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And, unfortunately I spend most of my days being that guy – I don my flannel shirt, worker gloves and dungarees (I just said dung!) and start wading, thigh deep, through all the clever and well-researched data that our clients have put together in search of that elusive needle.

You see, the problem is that these heaps and heaps of clever and well-researched data, when put onto PowerPoint slides, really just adds up to a sure-fire way to get an audience to sleep quicker than Nytol! I’m not for a second saying that the research and data isn’t necessary, I’m just saying that it has no place on your slides.

Back in the 90s Microsoft, did two great things: they released Windows 95 and Microsoft Office. Back then Office was just Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Word for words, Excel for numbers and PowerPoint for visuals. The problem was that they didn’t do a great job of letting people know their intention for PowerPoint and over time, people have been using PowerPoint as this dumping ground of words (at ML, we refer to these as slide-uments as they’re actually documents that happen to be on slides!), bad clip art and numbers.

PowerPoint was revolutionary in it’s ability to take over a projector and put the photographic slide projectors of my childhood firmly out of business forever! The problem is that somewhere along the line, people forgot how great those photographic slide projectors were. Yes, we all had that uncle who would make you sit and watch all 200 photos of his trip to the Kruger Park, but there was a magic in bringing those visuals to life, and with the stories that would be told, you felt like you were there!

This is the magic that has been lost when people use PowerPoint and this is the magic that we have been desperately trying to bring back over the last 17 years. Getting back to great stories (yes, often grounded in research) that the audience wants to hear. It’s all about creating great context supported by the content.

When I turn on the tap I don’t need to know where the water came from, I just want to connect my sprinkler and dance in the “rain”! So here’s the secret – when the audience is there watching you present, they want this too – they don’t want the content, they want the context; they want to know what this means for them and the actions that they can take thereafter – this is what a great presentation does.

Let’s spring clean the barn and shake out the hay so that we can start seeing more frikken needles!

Posted by Donovan de Souza

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