The Drug Dealer, The IT Professional & The Presentation

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by Simon Morton

That old sage (and, lest we forget, professional PowerPoint basher) Edward Tufte quipped recently

There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’… drug dealers and IT

It raises an interesting if somewhat uncomfortable question – how highly does the IT sector rate it’s customer base?

Here at Eyeful we have the privilege of being asked to develop presentations for a number of large and very successful IT companies (if you’re one of them, thank you).  In common with the many other technical industries we work with, the trickiest part of the project is getting clarity of how to engage with their audience.

The manifestation of this issue tends to be pretty straightforward and falls into one of two camps:

Typical IT Approach A – “Look How Clever We”ve Been”

This manifests itself as a series of dense slides thick with diagrams and schematics that go to demonstrate how hard they have worked on developing a cutting edge solution.

There is a complete absence of structure, overarching message, business benefits or call to action…and the audience is left bemused and, if things have gone to plan for the presenter, also feeling a little more stupid than they did at the start of the meeting.

Typical IT Approach B – “Style Over Substance”

Inspired by slavishly consuming Apple ads and marketing collateral, this presentation takes on a “less is more” approach to engaging with it’s audience.  Prepare yourself for obscure references, “zen”-like visuals and very little in the way of engaging content for the audience to grab hold of and process.

Once again, the audience is left bemused…

It’s Not Rocket Science*

For such a learned bunch, the IT sector can sometimes forget the basics – a presentation should be focused on delivering an engaging and “sticky” message to your audience (normally with the aim of prompting them to do something) in a way that appeals to them.

And, let’s face it, the only way you’re going to be able to know how exactly to pitch your message is to know your audience.  So, the big question is, if you continue to think of them as “users”, how easy is that transition really going to be..?

*Unless you are one of our aerospace customers.

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