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Is Your PowerPoint a Presentation or a Business Report?

Author: Stephy Hogan

Jul 17, 2019

Author: <a href="" target="_self">Stephy Hogan</a>

Author: Stephy Hogan

Jul 17, 2019

Is Your PowerPoint a Presentation or a Business Report?

Did you know that there is an unspoken fact in the presentations’ world? This fact is that nearly half, or even more, of the PowerPoint presentations, and presentations created in other programs are not going to be projected onscreen and presented in a boardroom or a conference venue, or even used in a webinar.

Really? Where did these presentations come from? The other half of all presentations created are internal business reports that contain millions of slides floating within the mail inboxes and other folders of most business, educational, and other entities.

So what is a business report presentation? It is everything your normal presentation isn’t, and business reports unabashedly flout every rule framed to create better presentations! Some examples of these rules are using less text, and respecting white space–and that happens even though you can create good business reports even after you follow all rules.

Now, before we proceed further, let me tell you that it is entirely possible to create business report slides that look good, are enjoyable to read, and use good aesthetic sense. Nancy Duarte created a simple framework within PowerPoint called SlideDocs that lets you create better business reports, but most business report slides don’t worry too much about looking good. They just need to get the job done!

Now look at these two sample slides.

Typical Presentation
A typical presentation slide

Business Report Slide
A business report slide

If you look at examples of both slide types above, you will see that while the first slide is a typical presentation slide with less supporting content, the second slide is a business report with more content. The reason is simple; while the typical presentation slide will most likely be delivered by a live presenter, the business report slide will journey alone to inboxes, and will be viewed by recipients without the benefit of a live presenter.

Expectations from both slide types are different. And that’s the reason why someone who creates boardroom slides should not judge business report slides wearing colored glasses. The reverse is equally true.

Let us now look at what is expected from both these delivery mechanisms:

Typical, Boardroom Presentations

A typical presentation should follow certain guidelines:

  • Use less text
  • Employ good use of visuals
  • Have an underlying story
  • Be relevant to someone who is new to a certain approach, product, service, or idea
  • Be useful, even when presented to perfect strangers
  • Most often, these are presented in person or delivered via a webinar
  • Aesthetics are expected, but not necessarily provided

Most importantly, typical presentations need to be different from other presentations. They need to stand apart, provide a message, and help convince someone else.

Business Reports

Business reports also consist of slides, but they don’t need to follow most of the above guidelines. They have their own characteristics:

  • They contain tons of text
  • Nearly half of the content is sourced from spreadsheet and/or database applications, and PowerPoint or another presentation program is merely a glue to hold everything together
  • They can be presented in person, but are often emailed and printed
  • They follow the same format repeatedly. In fact, recipients expect them to follow the same format.
  • They may use visuals, but often these don’t relate to stories. They provide proof of events or objectives
  • Aesthetics are not always expected, but still welcome

Most business reports are sent to superiors/seniors within the organization.

So as you can see, both presentations and business reports may be slide-based, but that’s probably the only similar factor they share.

This post originated from an answer I posted on Quora.

Geetesh Bajaj
Geetesh Bajaj is an internationally acclaimed PowerPoint, storyboarding, info-diagramming and presenting expert who has been awarded the Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) every single year for 18 years now. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Presentation Guild, a presentation industry trade association, based out of Cincinnati, USA.

Based out of Hyderabad, India, he believes that any presentation is a sum of its elements—these include abstract elements like story, concept, color, interactivity, and navigation—and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. Geetesh has authored six books.

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