What do I do if partners use PowerPoint like documents?

If you can believe it, my new partners insist on writing consulting proposals in PowerPoint, and then using the proposal for the presentation. Any suggestions on how I can convince them to avoid this practice? -Steve H.

Steve, I do believe it.  A couple thoughts:

Pick the right battles
The reality is that people can and do use PowerPoint as documents. Honestly, I’m not going to argue this point…the division I worked in at Microsoft did the same thing. Whether it’s PowerPoint or Word in landscape format or some other software, the key here is that documents are documents…consciously.

Remember that there’s a difference between collaborating and presenting
To be fair, meetings are places where you discuss, collaborate, analyze together, and web conferencing is a great tool for virtual meetings.  The difference between collaborating and presenting is behavioral.  A presentation isn’t a document or even slides, it’s what you do to educate or persuade an audience from a starting situation (Point A) to an outcome or action (Point B).  Yes, it IS confusing that “presentation” has such a broad and indefinite meaning, so focus on the purpose of the communication, not the tools.

Make sure your own presentations demonstrate best practices
As you heard me say in the webinar, create presentations, not documents.  We won’t change the world overnight, but we can be part of the solution, not the problem. The reality is that much of our learning as adults is experiential…and it’s likely your partners are doing something they’ve seen over and over.  It’s like a new golfer learning to play by listening to Uncle Joe who plays every week, but Uncle Joe’s a hack.  The result is perpetuating the badness.

Find your own best process to create presentations and documents/handouts
Here’s what I do…as I outline a presentation, I’m creating the basis for the handout that summarizes the key points I made.  I don’t to have the handout/leave behind mimic every story, every comment, every nuance…it’d be 20 pages long.  Then I transfer the concepts to PowerPoint and start adding the visuals that tell the story.  Sometimes that transfer is word-for-word (like the key points), but much of the time the concept is represented visually (in a way that would read poorly or not-at-all as a document).  In the end I’ve got a presentation that’s the best audio-visual experience I can produce, and I’ve got an document that reads a lot better than someone trying to look at a pile of slides in a .pdf.

Steve, if you’re even asking the question, you’re already on the right track!  Stick with it, and good luck!

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