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Episode 85: Interview with James Ontra - The Problem With Presentations

by Doug Davidoff | Jan 31, 2022 1:00:00 PM

Presentations suck today. Most people waste time, waste money, and don't focus on the client with their presentations and it becomes hell because they don't know the connection between what's on the screen and how they want to effect their audience. Today we welcome guest James Ontra, CEO of Shufflrr, to the show to give us the 411 on presentation management. (Spoiler Alert: Doug and James do disagree on a few things here.)




Show Notes

Black Line Podcast_JamesOntra

Editor's Note: If you haven't already, leave the podcast a review either on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you would like to follow James and his insights, you can find him on: 

LinkedIn: James Ontra

Podcast: Presentation Hell

Are storytelling and presentation synonyms or are they different? 

To James they are very much the same. If you go back in history, presentation was a written word on a cave wall, a presentation was an immediate medieval church with strained glass windows. Every university is built around lecture halls, which used to be a chalkboard and is now a presentation. But as far as a communication medium, it's never really been studied properly. It's almost like everyone is out on their onw and you're your own silo. 

To Doug they are different things. There's the physical component of the deck. The presentation is the deliverable element where the storytelling is something you have to craft and has emotion. 

While they are different in that sense, James goes on to say that they both rely on each other. Every presentation is a story and every slide is a scene. When you are brought through a journey, you feel complete in some ways. They build on each other. 

Whose fault is it that presentations suck? 

PowerPoint a little bit because it's just mechanical, but also the people putting the presentation together. James thinks that they fear creativity because it can flop.

We can blame PowerPoint, but presentation sucked before PowerPoint. This is true, but PowerPoint forced every person in the company to put a slide show together. If you couldn't do the slide show or work it,  you might not be able to sell your product anymore.

So in that way, Doug would make the argument that storytelling is better today than what we thought, and James agrees. 

When it comes to structured storytelling, the people in your company understand the techniques of structuring your slides. The structure is to connect with the prospect early and then follow up with facts and data because you can use those facts and data to reinforce the emotional sale. 

Doug stops James here and mentions that people buy you for why you do something, not what you do, and to Doug the above statement is the what.

Brining the conversation back down to ground level, James sets us up for the structure of presentation management. Presentations are flat and linear. "I have a presentation of 10 slides, we'll talk for 20 minutes, I go in order from slide to slide." In a presentation management environment, you might have 300 slides that tell your whole company story. If they're all formatted to present, it's a slide library. When you have a published library to choose from, you can go and pick out the slides you want. We're curating the scenes over time so that there's better communication. When your people use the slides and become better communicators, it all becomes part of the training.

Your slides and presentation should always be focused on your customer. Doug always thinks of it as the customer is Luke Skywalker and you/your product are Yoda.

Going back to why PowerPoint can suck and why presentations suck is because it's so easy to put them together. In the days where you had to plan it out and hand it over for approval after approval, it had a cost, so you made sure what you did was worth it.

And that's the nice thing about having a slide library. The person who uses it is out of the door in 5 minutes with 90% of the presentation looking sharp. Then they can just do the extra pieces on the side and end that's relevant to them. 

But where's the story with that?

It turns into communication. You start with a story, you get the direction, but when you start to engage with your client and they ask questions, you're able to pull up slides that are relevant to the question they're asking. The story and the presentation are supposed to work hand in hand, not independent of each other. It becomes a dance.

To Doug, this makes it easier and makes things more efficient, but easier and more efficient, more often than not does not end up in better. 

In this case, James thinks it does, to which Doug mentions that right now it might because not many people are using it. This whole conversation has cemented to Doug that presentation and storytelling are distinctly different. 

At this point Doug's broken his own rule and has gone into finding out more about the presentation management system that Shufflrr provides. The system is able to recognize duplicates and puts them side by side so you can pick which one you think is best. If you put in a name or concept, you can see all the slides that go with it. They can hit duplicates when they're exact. They also have something called brand central that ensures the colors, fonts, and logos all match and are all right. Again, if you'd like to learn more about Shufflrr and their presentation management system, you can do so here.