The Hidden Art of Presentation

Today at work I had the opportunity to take part in our company’s quarterly kickoff meeting where the CEO tells us commoners about the current situation of the company. This includes, but is not limited to, refreshing our strategy, declaring new goals and objectives and further strengthening our commitment to the company’s mission and vision. Naturally, all workforce is present as this is such a high-scale event to graciously set us off on our next thee-month journey.

Anyway, being a relatively new company listed in the Nasdaq OMX stock market, we had the rare opportunity today to learn about different rules and regulations that deal with working in such a company. I thought, perhaps, I will actually learn about what harmonized disclosure rules and having inside information might mean in my case. In addition, having a break from dealing with customers’ possible problems (or rather, specified features depending on the interpretation) with our software product was a welcome breeze of change during the day.

The man responsible for this ground-breaking lecture introduced himself as a director from a Finnish authority that is responsible for regulating stock exchange in said stock market. My hopes were high at this point, him being an expert on the topic and me knowing nothing much on the subject. I was certain that he was well prepared and had most likely given the same lecture to thousands of people before. And knowing the usual quality of presentations given at any corporate events I have attended so far, it could not be much worse than those!

But no. Right during the very first few seconds I realized my hopes had cruelly been trampled upon. There they lay, bruised and battered. To say the least, I felt ashamed and flustered at the same time as I was listening to the man giving his speech about what I thought to be his daily topic. He clearly had too much nonsense stuffed in his 45-minute lecture consisting (originally, as he reminded us) of 88 slides. He skipped back and forth, repeated himself over and over and even went so far as to casually belittle himself to try and shred off even the last drops of credibility that still lay there somewhere. 10 minutes into the lecture I hoped to be back in my cozy corner dealing with server errors. I could have learned more in 5 minutes by reading the rules and regulations summary instead.

I wonder what the underlying problem really is. It is not impossible to not add every word you are going to say to those PowerPoint slides. Granted, it is tempting, but hey – why not even try doing it differently for once. Giving excuses for the presentation’s quality while giving it is in my opinion nothing short of unacceptable. And even if the material is bad, the presentation does not have to be, right? Perhaps there was something else involved, like maybe telling the man 5 minutes before that his time would be, what, one third of what it was originally going to be. Even then there would have been too much nothing. Instead of merely wasting time, we would have also been bored to death. And while I am at it, always use a remote controller to switch slides and have a goddamn laser pointer at hand! Is this not common sense?

Today’s man in black is unfortunately not the only one guilty as charged. I see this happening every time. Even our official presentation slides – the ones shown to our potential customers – have so much text I could not even begin to fathom who bothers to read them. Is the point to just have the slides play their little game somewhere in the background? I would rather use no slides and a chalkboard instead! I understand that in the world of universities and knowledge, scientific publications and qualifications come first and not every professor is an able speaker. But why does this happen in the corporate world as well? There are plenty of courses available at different universities or commercial organizations on how to communicate or give presentations. If that is a no-go, then have someone else do it. Even if I do not like giving a speech, I would definitely and absolutely really strive to make an effort to make it worthwhile to listen to me. And why purposefully undermine your own credibility while giving the presentation? That is beyond my comprehension.

Finally, all of this made me think of the costs incurred to any kind of company having such wonderful learning opportunities. Let’s make a quick assumption that on the average an hour of any kind of work would be billed at the rate of 100 euros per hour. Thus having 100 persons present for one hour would cost said company in terms of lost income at least 10 000 euros. Somehow, I see a point in having an expert work his ass off at making that one hour’s education not only excellent but almost damn perfect. Talks of reducing costs and improving on efficiency mean little to me if the savings can so easily be out-weighed. Why not pay a qualified lecturer 5 000 euros instead to actually get the most out of it?

All in all, I did learn a few things about the topic of the lecturer. And in the end (after the notorious Thank you slide) he had reserved some time for questions which proved to be a whole lot more educating than the presentation itself. To sum these up for my own future reference:

  • key phrase of the day was “relevant impact on investors’ qualified opinion on the value of the company”
  • inside knowledge is any knowledge or information that could affect the situation described within the key phrase
  • rules and regulations must be followed precisely and they are strictly enforced
  • disclosures have to be simultaneous and well-distributed
  • any information regarding the key phrase should be made publicly available without delay
  • any publicly listed company should have some kind of policy on how to deal with the above

Over and out. Time to sleep.

– Joona

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