Andreessen Horowitz Shows How To Avoid The Worst Death By PowerPoint

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Andreessen Horowitz Shows How To Avoid The Worst Death By PowerPoint on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

Of all the many bad raps against PowerPoint—TMI (Too Much Information), MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over), Data Dump, Show up and Throw Up, and “Just mail me the deck!”—the worst is The Laundry List, in which the slides in a presentation have all the continuity of a deck of cards shuffled by a Las Vegas dealer. We’ve all been there: “First, I’d like to talk about…then I’d like to talk about…then I’d like to talk about…then I’d like to talk about…and last, but not least…”

Audiences, who have become inured to slideshows with encyclopedic text and number charts, may occasionally overlook the visual excess and try to follow along, but nothing will lose them faster than the “Wait! Where are we now?” reaction.

The Laundry List is a direct result of companies developing a “one-size-fits-all” corporate slide show that becomes a problem because every presenter in every corporation rearranges the order of the slides to suit his or her own style and/or the composition of the audience, losing any semblance of continuity as well as any audience’s attention.

The solution: after having shuffled the deck, the presenter must check to see if the new order has a clear progression. A simple way to do that is open the Slide Sorter View—think of it as a storyboard—in which all the slides are visible. Then, if the titles are crafted as succinct headlines*, the presenter should be able to see the story flow by reading only the titles.  If it doesn’t, the presenter can shift the order until it does.

An excellent role model for this technique comes from Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm with $4.2 billion under management. They recently posted one of their presentations called “US Tech Funding” online. Look at the titles of the first few slides in their deck and you’ll see the flow:

  • The starting point—what’s going on?
  • The argument against a tech bubble.
  • Tech market indices are approaching the levels of 1999
  • but, earnings, not P/E multiples, are growing
  • Tech’s contribution to S&P is flat
  • And market size is for real this time

As a further example of connecting the dots, the URL for the Andreessen Horowitz website and the shorthand reference to their brand name is “A16z.” This alphanumeric is formed by the first and last letters of their company name—the names of the two principals—and the 16 letters they have between the “A” and the “z.”

See your story flow by reading only the titles. Make your presentation easy for your audience to follow  and they will make it easy for you; the alternative is unthinkable.

*You can find more on how to craft succinct headlines—as well as how to craft any slide—in my book Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Andreessen Horowitz Shows How To Avoid The Worst Death By PowerPoint on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

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