Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Powerpoint Skills in Small Business

My last post was on focusing your skill development in Corporate America on areas that will be of most use in the entrepreneurial space.  Today, I will underscore the importance of Powerpoint skills in small business.  That's right, Powerpoint.  The sexiest of corporate skills!  

The ability to create impactful, concise presentations is a skill that is important in many facets of small business, but is often sorely missing.  For those of you that are Powerpoint psycho's, find the right balance since spending a week creating a 15-slide presentation will not serve you well as an entrepreneur.  For those of you that don't know how to add a graph to a slide, learn the basic skills while you can.

Big companies use Powerpoint to varying degrees.  In the most optimistic scenario, it is an effective communication tool for presenting data and making decisions.  In a pessimistic scenario, it's an abusive tool for bludgeoning listeners into acquiescence.  Whatever situation you are in, find ways to acquire good presentation habits.  It is a minimal investment for a skill that will differentiate you immeasurably as an entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, you are presented with continuous opportunities to present yourself and your venture to potential partners.  In the event that this accompanies a presentation, this is a unique opportunity to put forth a professional image that captures you and your company.   The reason for this post today is that too many entrepreneurs fumble away (like Michigan!) this opportunity with shoddy presentations. 

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Start with a story-board to outline your message 
  • Be brief
  • Pay attention to simple formatting
  • Have someone proof-read the big picture story and the details
  • Skip the clip-art ... seriously
As a corporate employee, if you let your assistant create slides for you, stop it.  You most likely will not have that type of support in small business.  (And if you do, it may be a sign that your company is too cavalier with its capital.)

Finally, I will sign off by encouraging you to avoid my biggest Powerpoint pet peeve.  It's the slide that pops up and is immediately followed by:  "I know you can't see/read this, but ...."  To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, "You lost me at 'but.'"

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