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Charles Henry discusses visual corporate boredom.

If every organization has a unique profile, a unique brand, a unique product, and a unique message, then why do so many presentations look the same?

In a world where communication and design is one of the single most important assets to leverage competitive advantage, why do so many organizations fail to make an impact?

Presentation Article and Advice about Creating Content

Visual corporate boredom.

Charles Henry, Designer,
Just about every corporate presentation that I've seen, either looks the same, or is so strikingly similar to other competing organization efforts, that sitting through several speakers at a conference, or business event, viewing their slides and visual presentations becomes one long visual blur.

In an age where cloning is still illegal, it appears that sadly no one has taken the effort to inform the presenters and advertising agencies behind their slides that people are actually watching these visuals.

But this is not true of our presentations I hear you cry! Ours are unique! Our logo and brand are unique, and so are our presentations! Well, if you believe that to be true, bear with me, and see if the pattern fits.

The advertising police arrested creativity

Every organization, it seems, spends a lot of money hiring advertising agencies and bureaus to tell them how their presentations should "look & feel" to keep an overall corporate image.

Which in theory makes perfect logic and sense. Most things do. But what happens when there are no weapons of mass destruction? What then?

Only five years ago, advertising agencies, did what they did best. They focused on their client's communication and profile efforts. Their aim was simply and purely to make sure that the message their client wished to convey and the values that they wished to endorse were illustrated and easily recognizable through their corporate, product, and service range brands.

But somewhere between the birth of digital media as a publishing platform, and the transition of marketing budgets from conventional print, to Internet and digital presentations, the advertising agencies seem to have decided that in order to fully service their clients, that they also had to provide digital services.

Of course, what the advertising agencies actually saw were smaller marketing budgets from their clients, and the transfer of budgets that were once theirs instead placed to Internet companies and screen based media bureaus.

In a dog eat dog world, the Rottweilers were not going to allow any old Cocker Spaniels to just stroll in and steal their supper. No sir, and so rather focus on traditional medias, many took a leap into the great unknown of digital and screen media, and curiously enough became experts overnight.

As any good plumber will tell you, he can fix your leaking sink, but he doesn't necessarily know how to build your house, and even if he could, it probably wouldn't be optimal, and certainly not the greatest house every built, or a good return on investment.

An interactive and moving screen is not a printed page

And so with self proclaimed digital media expert status, many agencies now resumed their position as king over their client's creative domain. Designing their clients web sites, designing their clients presentations, laying out digital profiles and guidelines, and policing every corporate creative act.

Now take our advertising Art Director, he's now designing digital presentations and web pages. Except the problem is that the screen is transparent, its not reflective like a page or a print, and the screen can scroll, stretch and expand. It's not a fixed size like A4.

A screen is after all fluid, its motion based, often interactive if necessary, but not an A4 print, and not a copy of a printed page.

And so just like our plumber's house, it might not be leaking, but shouldn't that roof sit a little better than that? And as for that door over there, isn't it supposed to open out?

But the clients of course become entangled in a web of creative ownership and bureaucracy that the advertising agencies are infamously known for, which makes severing ties or the using of other dedicated creative organizations at the very least difficult, at the worst so costly that the effort seems pointless.

The corporate PowerPoint template

So there you stand as a client, you have your profile, you have your business stationary, you have your brochures, sales material, and product sheets, and then the agency shows you your digital presentation templates, the PowerPoint templates that you've been waiting for.

The PowerPoint template that will facilitate all of your communication needs. Yes sir, the PowerPoint template to end all PowerPoint templates, and as the art director carefully explains why your logo must sit here and why the colors that will be used are these and not those, and what this space here is used for, you also see that yes this is the PowerPoint template that we have been searching for. Why it has more uses than a potato. It can be used for everything. Internal presentations, external presentations, corporate relations, media relations, customer reports, sales presentations, conferences, seminars, and all other general purposes. It's perfect.

Or is it? It's certainly convenient. It's very easy to manage. It's cost effective, or perhaps it is at least in theory.

But let's say your agency is generous, and your art director is the tooth fairy, and the agency proposes several PowerPoint templates for your organization, PowerPoint templates for different purposes. Perhaps one for all internal presentations, and one for sales and marketing activities, and one for general presentations.

This has to be better right? More choice more selection, whilst still falling within the creative restraints and control of our creative police to make sure our brand is always portrayed in a professional and concise manner?

Well now of course there are more PowerPoint templates to worry about, but it's easy to see why you must use this one internally, and this one externally, and this one for everything else right?

Plenty more fish in the sea

The truth of the matter is, that the most important thing to consider about your presentation is who will be viewing it, and what do you want to achieve?

Do you really believe that by putting your content into your corporate PowerPoint template and attending a conference to give a presentation along with many other presenters that your presentation will inspire, your audience? Do you really think that general PowerPoint template, or your PowerPoint template for corporate relations will stand out amidst a sea of corporate relation PowerPoint presentations.

Each presentation may have a different logo, it may be placed on the screen in varying locations, and the color schemes of each presentation alter, but in an audience these differences are simply not enough to make, support, and differentiate your verbal delivery. And one chart quickly resembles another, and one set of figures another, and one line of bullet text merely another.

But you have your cost effective corporate aligned presentation right? Isn't that what counts? Well what if a little greater effort went into making that presentation stand out at the conference? What if your presentation visually stirred and inspired your audience? What if your presentation visually echoed your content and key arguments? Isn't that effort worth the value your organization would gain? Isn't that effort likely to make that sale? Isn't that effort likely to convince an investor?

Doesn't that effort tell your audience, "Hey! I care about this presentation. I want to motivate you. This isn't just another recycled corporate PowerPoint template. I made this because it is important!!!"

As a member of an audience, which presentation would you remember?

Your PowerPoint presentation doesn't have to be A4

The funny thing is, despite what the advertising agency informs and invoices you; it doesn't take a great deal of effort, or need to involve a great creative investment, and resources to achieve this effect. A refreshed, more appropriate and relevant design for the presentation, introductory chapters graphics, subtle animations and motions, use of sound to attract focus to key and target points, and your return on investment can easily be measured, and the results instantaneous.

So as you sit there and prepare for your next presentation, ask yourself the question, "Who will be viewing this, and what do I want to achieve?" Then look again at your PowerPoint template. And imagine that you are in the audience, watching yet another presentation. Will you achieve what you hope to achieve? Would a little extra effort gain your audience's attention, and allow your speech to gain their conviction?

For whilst your advertising police approve of their A4 conformity and convenience of your corporate PowerPoint templates and presentations, they are not in your audience, and they are not using your screen to gain attention or effect.

To stand out from the crowd you need to be seen, not only heard, and in the blur of corporate PowerPoint template use, you do have the choice to stop your audience from going blind.
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