Extreme Makeover: PowerPoint Edition

By Heather Baldwin

Background: Extensis’ digital asset storage software is used by some of the world’s largest brands – FedEx, Ducati Motors and DK Publishing, to name a few. Yet Extensis (www.extensis.com) executives felt their sales presentations weren’t resonating with new prospects. In particular, they were concerned their PowerPoint slides were too feature-heavy and not what their audiences wanted to hear about. But they weren’t sure how to go about creating a more audience-focused presentation. That’s when they turned to Janine Kurnoff, president of Beaverton, Oregon-based The Presentation Company, LLC. Kurnoff’s firm overhauled the presentation and then shared their work with Selling Power.

Slides’ objective: To open the presentation in a way that grabs audience members’ attention and makes them want to hear more about Extensis’ solutions.

Audience: Anyone with responsibility for managing digital assets in all types of companies. Digital assets include everything from photos, fonts and other graphics to Word and PowerPoint files.

Sample PowerPoint Slides

Challenges: Extensis executives were right on target in identifying the key problem in their presentation, says Kurnoff: Their opening slides were too text-dense and were all about Extensis, not the audience. “There were a lot of good statistics, but they were good for a brochure or Website, not for a sales presentation,” says Kurnoff. If you’re going to hook an audience at the beginning of a presentation, she adds, you need to immerse them in a story that shows why they should care. Once you do that, they’ll be interested in hearing about your solution. But when you start out firing numbers and qualifications and company history at audience members, you only put them to sleep.

Changes: Kurnoff changed the opening slide to hook the audience in with two rhetorical questions: If I give your company $10,000, do you have an accounting system in place to track it, access it and spend it? Then the follow-up: If I give your creative department an important file to save on your network, do you have a system in place to track it, access it and share it? After posing the second question, the presenter says: We find most companies don’t. He or she then goes on to tell a story – graphically depicted in the next slide – that illustrates the problem raised by the second question.

The photos on the next slide show what typically happens at a company when one of their employees needs a graphic at a trade show: They place a call to someone in marketing who must stop what they’re doing to search for the graphic. Failure to find it means the IT department is called in to search for the file, but even if they find it they often receive the dreaded missing fonts message. All of which has wasted hours of productivity and probably several thousand dollars – and that’s just for one graphic.

With the audience now emotionally engaged, the presenter’s next slide – which shows stats from a third-party research firm about the magnitude of the digital storage problem – taps into the rational left brain to complete the opening. “At this point, Extensis has set themselves up to come in and save the day,” says Kurnoff.

Results: By opening the presentation with questions that get audience members thinking and a story that shows why they should care, prospects not only will be ready to hear about Extensis – they’ll be eager to learn about the company and its capabilities. “Most companies start out with their solution and the audience doesn’t get it because they don’t care,” observes Kurnoff. “Once you show them why they should care, you’ve got them; they’re in your hands.”

Furthermore, by using graphics instead of bullet points, the presenter is the focal point as he or she tells the story and engages the audience. Presenters who use a lot of bullet points miss this opportunity. They’re forced to compete with their slides and the audience as the audience reads the slide and the presenter talks. Try to think of ways you can tell your story visually instead of with text, says Kurnoff, and you’ll find you have a more captivated audience.

About the Expert: Janine Kurnoff is principal and founder of The Presentation Company LLC, a business communications firm specializing in innovative online and onsite presentation skills training. Using a customized approach, her firm teaches business professionals how to think outside the box when it comes to communicating visually using PowerPoint and Web-based application software. For more information or to reach Kurnoff, visit www.presentation-company.com.

Note to readers: Need help with a PowerPoint slide or two? Just email the slides you think could use a makeover to: powerpointhelp@sellingpower.com. If your slides are selected, we’ll turn them over to a presentations expert for an overhaul. You’ll receive new slides that will wow your prospects, and then you can read here about how they were overhauled.