How to write presentations

Managers: don’t delegate and forget

Here’s a behaviour I’ve seen a lot of in large organisations: a middle manager finds out they’re required to present to someone even more senior. Rather than writing the presentation themselves, they delegate it to a junior person.

“Can you put some slides together for me about such-and-such?” they ask. “I need them for tomorrow.”

It’s as if the task of actually opening Keynote or PowerPoint is seen as somehow demeaning, or something that only junior people get paid to do. Some managers seem to think they are too important for this kind of stuff.

Pfft, is what I say to that. If you’re presenting something, you should be involved in creating the slides for it, no matter how senior you are.

Rather than delegating the job of writing them to someone else, I think it should work the other way round: you, the presenter, should write a first draft. On paper first, then perhaps as a set of slides.

Then you invite some of your colleagues (junior ones and senior ones) to sit and watch you go through it, and afterwards you ask them: “Did that make sense? What point did you think I was trying to make? Did I make it well?” Iterate from there. Make some slides and test out how they work. They don’t have to look great at this stage.

People will argue back at me about this, saying: “They’re managers. They don’t have time to prepare slides. That’s why they have junior people, to do that sort of work for them.”

To which my reply is this: how important is the presentation they’re being asked to do?

If it’s very important, then the managers should be more involved in the preparation. If doing a presentation is part of your job, then preparing for that presentation is part of your job too.

If it’s not important, why are they doing a presentation at all?

@gilest - 26 May 2017