No other crutch has had a more negative impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of business than the business presentation. To be fair, PowerPoint did not invent its own presentation model. As they’ve always done, Microsoft copied the idea––this time, from Harvard Graphics (HG). Most of you were in diapers when HG first came along, as a young engineer, I immediately thought the whole thing was a bad idea.
Most senior-level executives got where they are by making quick, high-quality decisions. They have little need for or patience with details––that’s what they paid me, the engineer, to master.
In my late 20s, I made a presentation to the CEO of my company, a large chemical firm. About three minutes into my slides, he barked, “Young man, please stop confusing me with facts. Just tell us what you recommend and why in as few words as possible.”
I paused to gather my thoughts. “I recommend that we engage Arthur D. Little to help us build a health, environmental, and safety auditing system,” I said, with as much confidence and passion as I could muster. “Why? So we can assure that our facilities are in compliance and pose no serious threats to our people or communities; and because Arthur D. Little wrote the book on HES auditing.”
The CEO peered around the room at the nodding heads, looked up at me, and said, “Approved. Nice job. What’s next?”
With that, I was immediately escorted out of the conference room. It was an early, invaluable lesson: if I wanted to influence the top brass, I needed to be brief, bright, and gone.