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An Interview with Dave Paradi

In this interview, Dave discusses the true cost of bad presentations and also discusses death by PowerPoint.


Dave Paradi Dave Paradi is known as The Office Technology Lifeguard because he rescues people from "Death by PowerPoint" and other electronic sins. His articles, special reports and books help you quickly and easily leverage the technology you already own to save time and make money. Get your free 5+1 day Leveraging Microsoft Office course with 20 tips on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and more great tips every two weeks by signing up at his web site, Comunicate Using Technology.

Geetesh: You often use the term "Real cost of bad presentations"? Can you elaborate?

Dave: Too often, people do not realize that a poor presentation costs a significant amount of money. In a sales presentation, the cost is obvious in lost sales and damaged relationships. But poorly done internal presentations have a great cost as well. The first aspect is the time of all the people wasted in the presentation - they could be doing more valuable work elsewhere. Secondly is the extra time that is taken explaining what the poorly done presentation did not - through additional research, reports, meetings and perhaps even another presentation. For an organization that does only 10 presentations per day (not hard for an organization of 250 people), the wasted time could add up to $450,000 per year. Any executive must be concerned about this increasing cost.

Geetesh: Is there a "Death by PowerPoint" storm brewing up around us - what do you think about it?

Dave: There has been a recent backlash against PowerPoint, led by Professor Edward Tufte. He asserts that PowerPoint makes us dumb and that it should be banned. I do not agree with his assessment of the situation. My view is that PowerPoint is a tool and as such, can be either poorly or intelligently used. I agree that some of the default templates and color schemes are ineffective, but as I have said before, "Why let the software make decisions it is not qualified to make?" PowerPoint is a powerful tool, and if people are educated on why certain elements should be used in certain ways to enhance a message, I think it is a very useful tool. That's why my objective is to educate presenters on how to use PowerPoint effectively.

Geetesh: What do you think about PowerPoint 2003 - the pros and the cons?

Dave: Any new software release should be considered on whether the benefits of upgrading outweigh the costs of going through the upgrade (purchase cost, training, conversion, etc.) I think PowerPoint 2002 was a significant upgrade from PowerPoint 2000 and well worth the effort. I am not sure that PowerPoint 2003 has enough benefits to make one upgrade from PowerPoint 2002, but if you are still using PowerPoint 2000, the upgrade is worth it. The reality is that for my clients, they are not so concerned about using the latest software as they are about making it work for them.

Geetesh: About creativity blocks - what are your solutions to overcoming them?

Dave: QI am a very logical person, so I usually think things through in a chronological sequence, which keeps me working towards the goal of the presentation. I always take time at the start of a project to look at where I want the audience to be at the end of the presentation, where they are now and what steps I need to take them through to get them to the destination. By focusing on the overall structure first and breaking it down into smaller parts, I find that I have less blocks of creativity.

Geetesh: How important is outlining. Also, what do you think about the usage of Microsoft Word or any other application as an outlining tool for PowerPoint?

Dave: I think outlining is absolutely crucial. Following from my previous response, I will take the framework of my presentation and then develop the sub-points that support each step of the presentation. I get third-party expert opinions, facts, statistics, analogies or personal stories to provide depth to each key point. I personally find the outlining view of PowerPoint to be a great tool. I have found using Word to be more complicated than it needs to be, with having to set the styles properly or it won't translate into PowerPoint very well. If you do the proper work up front on your presentation before you ever use PowerPoint, the outlining should flow quite easily.

Geetesh: If you had to put into a few sentences your advice for presenters who get nervous, what would it be?

Dave: My sincere belief is that nervousness comes from a lack of preparation. If you know your subject well enough, then a presentation is just a conversation with your audience. And we can all have a good conversation when we feel that we know a lot about a topic. If you prepare enough, nervousness goes away because you have the confidence that you can handle any question and you are speaking from a depth of knowledge. The only times that I have felt nervous were when I knew that I had not done the proper preparation. The best way to be prepared is to develop a proper structure, including the goal, audience analysis, key points and supporting details.

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