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Giving a presentation you did not create and are not allowed to change?


I am helping someone prepare for a critical meeting where she has to present a specific slide deck prepared by Marketing.

The slides are on-brand, elegant, beautiful.

And they distract from her message.

For example, the last slide has a great tag-line imposed over a beautiful photograph of a worker beneath a plane. The problems: The tag line is not used anywhere else in the presentation. The audience doesn't work with planes. The image doesn't reference anything else discussed.

Me: Why is there a photo of a plane?

Her: It's in the deck because it relates to a great success story.

Me: Why didn't you tell that story?

Her: It isn't a good fit for this client or their industry.

Me: Then why are you showing it?

Her: It's part of the deck and I can't alter it.

To be fair, an irrelevant slide isn't the end of the world. But do you want any of your slides to be off-putting, distracting, or (at best) irrelevant? Can you afford your last slide being distracting or irrelevant?

This is a common situation in many companies I've helped and in companies where I worked. Hell, in the past I used to contribute to this madness. Marketing puts together beautiful templates or decks and insists they be used as-is in the name of "branding" or "messaging". And I get that.

But who knows a specific audience better: Marketing or Sales?

If you said the former, I bet you're in a marketing role. A hard truth is that Marketing has to put together a general message aimed at a general audience... but to generate revenue, Sales has to put together a specific message aimed at the needs of a specific audience. That means Sales must have the ability to adapt and amend messages if they are to persuade a client to buy.

So what can you do if you have to present a deck prepared by someone else that you can't alter?

  1. Ask the deck owner if you can make specific changes (slide order, wording, etc.) or add specific content - and be prepared to explain why you think those changes are needed. I'm surprised how many presenters don't believe they have the right or power to ask.

  2. Hide the slides that don't support your message or don't help your audience make the decision you need them to make. Yes, this is a bit of a cheat but technically the slides are still in the presentation.

  3. If you MUST show a slide that's likely to distract your audience:

  • Don't leave it up there long. Be prepared to immediately blank the screen or move on quickly. OR

  • Spend the time to make the slide relevant to your specific audience. This really depends on how much time you have and how much of a stretch it requires.


Bonus Question - Why did I use a photo of a diver for this post?

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