It starts innocently enough . . .
You click the remote and a new slide appears. You cast a wistful look back at the screen.
And then you reach for the easy phrase.
That’s when AYCS Syndrome strikes even the best of us, cutting us down in our presentation prime.
AYCS Syndrome + Bad PowerPoint
“As you can see.”
The phrase “As you can see” is so pervasive, so endemic to the modern business presentation that there must be a school somewhere that trains people to utter this reflexive phrase-hiccup.
Is there an AYCSS Academy? It would seem so.
The bain of AYCSS is that it is usually accompanied by a vague gesture at a screen upon which is displayed some of the most unreadable nonsense constructed for a slide – usually a financial spreadsheet or array of baffling numbers. Probably cut-and-pasted from a written report and not adjusted at all for visual presentation.
And the audience most assuredly cannot see. In fact, there might be a law of inverse proportion that governs this syndrome – the less the audience can actually “see,” the more often the audience is told that it can see.
And that’s why we reach for the phrase.
Because we can’t “see,” either.
We look back at an abstruse PowerPoint slide and realize that it 1) makes no sense, 2) never will make any sense, 3) is so complicated that we should have used four slides to make the point or should have deleted it, and 4) has no chance of contributing at all to our show. At that point, AYCS Syndrome attacks.
Numb and Dumb Your Audience with AYCSS
Finance students seem particularly enamored of AYCSS.
In fact, some rogue finance professors doubtless inculcate this in students.
Financial analysis of the firm is essential, of course. There are only few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation. Financial data are where you discover the firm’s profitability, stability, health, and potential.
But the results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.Something about a spreadsheet mesmerizes students and faculty alike. A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas. It seems important, substantial.
Too often, you display an Excel spreadsheet on the screen that is unedited from your written report. You cut-and-paste it into your presentation. You splash the spreadsheet onto the screen, then talk from that spreadsheet without orienting your audience to the slide.
This is the incredibly awful technique displayed by finance students, in particular, that is accompanied by the dreaded words: “As you can see.”
You, the presenter, stare back at the screen, at the phalanx of numbers.
Perhaps you grip the podium with one hand and you airily wave your other hand at the screen with the words . . . “As you can see—”
And then you call out what seem to be random numbers. Random? Yes, to your audience, the numbers seem random because you have not oriented the audience to your material.
You have not provided the context needed for understanding. No one knows what you’re talking about. Your classmates watch with glazed eyes. Perhaps one or two people nod.
Your professor sits sphinx-like.
And no one has a clue. You get through it, finally, and you’re relieved. And you hope that you were vague enough that no one can even think about asking a question.
AYCS Syndrome is the tacit agreement between audience and presenter that neither of us really knows or cares what’s on the slide. And we promise each other that there won’t be any further investigation into whatever this abominable slide holds.
It can’t be good. Not for the audience, not for anyone.
All of this sounds heinous, I know. And probably too familiar for comfort. But you can beat AYCCS with a few simple techniques that we’ll be discussing in days to come.
The Remedy for Bad PowerPoint can be found in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.