This is the subhead for the blog post
“It’s the singer not the song,
That makes the music move along…” The Who
This film clip from the Robert Evans documentary “The Kid Stays In The Picture”, which was shown to the Paramount Pictures Board of Directors during a very down time for the company, might be the greatest business presentation of all time. It’s exceptional not just because how well-spoken Evans is and the humility that he shows but how he welds together so successfully both the emotional and financial aspects of cinema and promises to deliver to his studio what ends up being 2 of the 4 biggest films of the ’70s (Love Story and The Godfather).
At the time of this film clip, Paramount was in very poor financial straits and Evans had to persuasively justify his “double down” strategy of paying top dollar for prominent contemporary novels, sensing that the popularity of the novels will lead to box office numbers that would justify their premium prices.
Technology has evolved considerably since this clip was filmed and today, most similar business presentations are delivered via PowerPoint, which is supposed to “tell a story” in a way that casts a positive light upon the storyteller and offers benefit to the recipient of the tale. PowerPoints have become such a de facto part of business meetings that sometimes people might forget to consider the following:
Does PowerPoint really help tell the story? Instead, might PowerPoint get in the way of telling the story?
When you watch the above clip even 40+ years later, you are immediately taken in by Evans’ extraordinary presence. You hang on every word he says. The way he uses film clips is masterful and the transition to and from them is seamless. You can watch that video once and easily remember each and every salient point he wishes to convey.
I’m sure there was a data component to the presentation that was distributed separately. Clearly the Paramount Board evaluated the data critically. However, I’m sure they had Evans’ words front and center as they were evaluating the data, and I’m sure that singular takeaway helped sway the board in Evans favor.
By contrast, I get PowerPoint Presentations that say something along the lines of:
Sales are up 52%
And to illustrate how well sales are doing, here’s a chart!
Then, someone drones on about whatever point they wish to make, and I can’t figure out whether to listen to the speaker, stare at the slide, or check my social media streams. Chances are, I’ll do a little of each, meaning that my distracted attention will lead me not to remember anything of what’s being presented to the detriment of both me and the presenter. This whole non-artfully done process reeks of cliché and conformity, and the act of creating and presenting a PowerPoint frequently substitutes for any meaningful discourse or rigorous analysis.
What Evans does so skillfully is separate the narrative and the numbers. He didn’t let the poor data detract from his story…yet he manipulated the scenario so that the story absolutely altered the perception of the data. His delivery is linear and precise and while he does change his medium of communication through the clip, the focus never drifts away from Evans and his accomplishments because he turns the presentation into a referendum of his leadership and frames the Board’s choice away from a balance sheet/profit & loss statement into a personal referendum on him.
I don’t think PowerPoints are going away any time soon. However, I think far too much emphasis is placed on a transient piece of media that combines the lesser elements of both the speaker presentation and the complete dataset…the two elements that, taken together, should be determinative of the future relationship between the two parties going forward.
The PowerPoint should be to the presentation what a wedge of lemon is to a glass of iced tea…offering a hint of flavor that enhances the taste. By contrast, if the iced tea were half lemon, it would taste awfully sour.