‘Why business people speak like idiots’

Another book recommended bythe presentationzen.com. There are a lot of good tips about how to get your message across effectively. On top of presentation, the book is actually more about business communication in general – more specifically about how ineffective business communication has become. Though mistakes mentioned in the book (e.g. use of complicated rather than simple words) are more often committed by native English speakers, the book still issues some relevant warning to non-native speakers. Beyond the book, the authors do continue their effort to ‘fight the bull’ via their website – fightthebull.com!!

Back to the topic of presentation- I am most impressed by an example mentioned in the book about the consequence of mis-use of Powerpoint – causing the failure of space shuttle Columbia.!! Judging from the Powerpoint slide itself (see the slide on the side) which was shown in a meeting the week before the disaster, the slide writer seemed to consider that the SOFI issue can cause serious damage. Yet, this message was unfortunately ‘buried’ somehow in the ‘word slide’. (You can find the full report here.)

In the organisation which I am working in, ‘word slide’ is just so common, to the extent that the Powerpoint slide is supposed to contain bullet points. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. One reason is that ‘word slide’ is easy to prepare – just type, or even cut and paste. It requires no imagination or creativity. And you can readily use the ‘word slide’ as the handout.

In short, slide is not properly used a visual aid….. and in fact, it is not the aid. It is the opposite – making communication less effective. It is sad. I personally have sit through countless presentations / product briefings, progress meetings…. where key messages failed to reach a reasonable proportion of the audience. It is a waste of time – enormous amount of time e.g. a simple briefing can easily have some 20 people for an hour. A wastage of half of the duration can be translated into 600 minutes or 10 hours equivalent. Just think of how much work can be accomplished in 10 hours!!! Not only quantity, but also quality – think of the deadly consequence in the Columbia shuttle case because of ineffective communication.

Well, I believe it all depends on whether you want to simply get the job (presentation) done, or really get the message across!!

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