Consulting tip: How to make decks for other people

By | February 6, 2017

Over my career, I estimate that I made 700+ presentations.  Some were executive summary or update presentations of 5-10 pages. Some were financial and operational reviews. Some were full-scale consulting engagement read-outs (e.g., 40+ pages).  They were all top-shelf and required enormous time / effort / love.

Many of them were also for other people. What? Yes, as a consultant, as a strategic planner, as an adviser, your primary job is to make OTHER PEOPLE SUCCESSFUL. As Rick Warren says in the Purpose Driven Life (affiliate link), in a completely different context:

It is not about you.

This means that you need a mastery of the content, a knack for storytelling, basic PowerPoint design and formatting skills, AND some mind-reading.  Mind read your presenter and mind read his/her audience. If you don’t have a good working rhythm with your client / boss / manager, you will find it a very painful process.

Mind-reading. This might sound mystical, but it’s just a combination experience and trust between the presentation creator (usually the consultant) and the presenter (client / boss):

  • Do you have experience with your client / boss / manager?
  • Do you know their speaking and presentation style?
  • Do you know audience, venue, context, and time constraints?
  • Do you agree on the key messages you want to convey?

After you have a working rhythm with your client / boss / manager – you will become the go-to person for all things presentation for that individual.  It’s happened for me 4-5 times in my life. Trust me, it’s not a bad place to be.

Tips for making presentations for other people:

  • Be explicit with the message; don’t leave it up to chance and nuance.
  • Review the slide deck with the client 1 week, 2 days and 1 day before the presentation
  • Provide notes and speaking points for each page if necessary
  • Limit the fancy video links, and animation; don’t trip up the presenter
  • Give the presenter confidence in the quality of the analysis and recommendation
  • Be available (during the presentation time) to answer questions as needed
  • Learn their style – over time – and match your words and graphics to their style
  • Be willing to say “no” and respectfully guide them to the direction you think is best

What other tips do you have for making slides for others?

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4 thoughts on “Consulting tip: How to make decks for other people

  1. Taylor

    Maybe a given, but…figure out if the person is using a Mac or PC version of PowerPoint. I once had a client who was continually having issues with the deck we were building him until I FINALLY figured out he was on a Mac. Very frustrating for both sides until we figured it out. Great post, thanks!

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Completely relevant. Great point.

  2. Dr. Debby

    It’s important to learn the preferences of your “employers” and incorporate them into the presentation you are creating for them. I have a client who wants everything to happen automatically, i.e. when he clicks on a slide that contains an animation or video, he wants the animation or video to start automatically. I have another client who wants just the opposite, i.e. he wants to initiate every animation or video with a separate click. Although some clients give me full rein, generally main job is to keep my clients happy, so I do what they ask. However, I also make suggestions from time to time, but these usually are by way of introducing them to other options provided by PowerPoint.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Great point. Yes. Here to make them successful. Thanks for comment.

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