From Russia With Love – Should Western Presenters Be Worried..?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 by Simon Morton

I recently returned from a visit to our Russian office (  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with our growing band of Russian customers a few times recently but this last trip was special in a number of different ways.

Firstly because I think the trip was proof positive that our Presentation OptimisationTM methodology has truly become international.  Over the years we’ve made no bones about how it has successfully supported our customers in the UK, US and Europe…but Russia is a different proposition completely and yet it STILL works.

How is it different?

Well of course there are the obvious things – the language (one I think I will always struggle to comprehend – thank God for the power of finger pointing accompanied with a smile), the frankly incomprehensible (to me at least) Cyrillic alphabet and, most importantly, the business culture.

Russia, along with much of Eastern Europe, is gripped with an enviable entrepreneurial zeal.  Their collective hunger for development and engagement is everywhere but perhaps no more obvious at the local business school.  I was privileged to be asked to speak to an audience made up of MBA students and perhaps the most remarkable thing was the type of questions I was asked at the end of the talk.

I’m used to questions that pit PowerPoint vs. other slideware or ask for my views on the use of tablet PCs as part of the sales presentation process.  The questions I was asked after the seminar were a little more disarming:

Why bother presenting on screen at all?  Why not just talk through a brochure?

Why are bullet points so bad?

These fundamental questions were then followed up with more tech-savvy questions:

How do I use presentations to support our social media strategy?

What impact has The Cloud had on presenting in other areas of the World?

In short, Russia has skipped a step in it’s business presentation development.

The good news is that they have a very good chance of skipping that awful “Death by PowerPoint” phase that has dogged Western businesses for the last decade and actually jumping straight to the stage enjoyed by only a few enlightened companies in the West.  That is, the use of business presentations to deliver focused, engaging messages in an effective and memorable fashion on the audiences’ terms.

Reviewing the presentation projects we’ve completed to date makes for an interesting statistic.  Over 80% of the PowerPoint projects we have worked in Russia have included “repurposing” to other formats like Flash or Video with voiceover.  This is not the norm in the West and, to me, points to a thinking that is unencumbered with the incessant corporate PowerPoint prejudices we hear so much about in Europe and the US:

In Russia, they want their messages to engage with their audience whenever and wherever they may be.

In the West, we’re still debating which template to use.

So ultimately I’m left excited about Russian business people and their willingness to learn and try new things.  My original fears that Presentation OptimisationTM couldn’t travel have been disproved by their open-minded approach and entrepreneurial spirit – check out this post workhop interview as a living example.

My concluding point references a recent quote from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner who said the following:

“Presentations are one of the main ways in which professionals capture and share their experiences and knowledge, which in turn helps shape their professional identity”

The willingness of the Russian market to understand and respond to the value of good business presentations is more in line with this thinking that the majority of business presenters in the West.  This thinking, coupled with entrepreneurial passion, should have a few in the West worried.

Now is the time to step out of the “old way” and re-think your presentation strategy…before an overseas competitor does it for you.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply