All of us have sat through a boring presentation at one time or another during our careers. As we work to build and grow businesses, sharing information is a necessity. But delivering that information in a boring way is not a requirement. In fact, it should be avoided at all costs.
To ingrain a company culture where you deliver remarkable customer experiences on a consistent basis, you've got to get your team in the habit of delivering remarkable experiences internally. Presentations are one place to start.
Jeff Bezos adopts this philosophy at Amazon. In his 2017 letter to shareholders, he outlined the company's approach to building a culture of high standards. In it, he noted just how important it is to focus your energy on how you do work internally, to produce excellence externally.
More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the "invisible" but crucial work that goes on in every company. I'm talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward - it's part of what it means to be a professional.
Bezos and his team apply this principle in great detail within their company. They've even instituted a policy that has removed PowerPoint and slide-based presentations at Amazon. Instead, they distribute six-page narrative-based memos, that all attendees read in silence at the start of each meeting.
How to coach your team to deliver better presentations.
You may not go to the extreme of eliminating slides within your company. However, it is good practice to provide some guidelines to your team regarding expectations of how to effectively deliver information, no matter the setting.
Nancy Duarte is communication expert and author of five best-selling books. In her Resonate, she puts forth some ideas on how to get your team in the mindset of delivering information to get results. She advises, "Reports should be distributed, presentations should be presented."
She went on further to explain:
So if a report primarily conveys information, then stories produce an experience. Blending the two creates a perfect world for your presentation where facts and stories can be layered like a cake. Navigating between fact, then story, then fact, then story creates interest and a pulse. Mixing report material with story material makes information more digestible. It's the sugar that helps the medicine go down.
Once your team knows what type and format of information they need to deliver, they can turn their attention to what will be required to deliver it effectively. Duarte provided the first step in this process:
The moment you know you need to create a presentation and not a report, shift your mindset from solely transferring information to creating an experience. This is the first step in moving along the spectrum away from a pure report toward a story.
Everyone on your team is a storyteller. As such, storytelling is a skill everyone on your team should embrace. Well, anyone on your team that needs to communicate or persuade others.
Consider someone on your marketing team trying to convince finance to approve a budget. Or a customer service team member trying to persuade senior leadership to implement a new customer retention initiative. Or someone in IT coming to management imploring them to do something to improve morale.
The data and information alone could be useful. But what will really make the impact to get the desired results, is the story associated with the information.
Presentation matters. It is part of the customer experience, whether your customers are your end user outside of your organization or stakeholders within it.
The better the customer experience, the easier it is to compel your audience to take action. Deliver a poor experience, and you jeopardize your chances of achieving your desired outcome.
Start encouraging your team to collect the stories they hear. Emails and feedback from customers, observations and conversations between team members, and even noteworthy personal experiences both at and outside of work are great places to turn to for relevant stories.
Once your company starts infusing story into their presentations of all kinds, you'll soon start to eradicate the boring ones from occurring. I think we can all agree that's a very good thing.