Seth Godin is the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. They are international bestsellers. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it.
In this post from 19 May 2010, Seth talks about the importance of making that extra effort to distinguish yourself from the crowd. It is this effort – which is usually the hardest part – that makes the difference between those who get by and those who stand out.
Let’s apply this principle to just one aspect of presentations – PowerPoint.
My students often ask me whether their PowerPoint slides must be absolutely perfect to get their message across. Of course, the answer is no.
By now, most people are used to seeing PowerPoint slides that have spelling mistakes or uneven indentation or irregular spacing between lines, etc. And, I suspect that only a small minority will hold such errors against you.
That is precisely why you should make every effort to make your slides perfect. So that your audience is able to distinguish your presentation from all the bad ones that they have seen. So that your presentation does not get filed, figuratively or literally, with the mediocre ones.
Excellence rises above the mass of mediocrity and gets noticed. Excellence is invited back to speak again and is well paid. Of course, mistakes will happen and we should not beat ourselves up when they do. But by working hard to eliminate mistakes in your slides, even small ones, you will raise the standard of your presentations noticeably.
Hardly worth the effort? To the contrary.
Hardly Worth the Effort
by Seth Godin
In most fields, there’s an awful lot of work put into the last ten percent of quality.
Getting your golf score from 77 to 70 is far more difficult than getting it from 120 to 113 or even from 84 to 77.
Answering the phone on the first ring costs twice as much as letting it go into the queue.
Making pastries the way they do at a fancy restaurant is a lot more work than making brownies at home.
Laying out the design of a page or a flyer so it looks like a pro did it takes about ten times as much work as merely using the template Microsoft builds in for free, and the message is almost the same…
Except it’s not. Of course not. The message is not the same.
The last ten percent is the signal we look for, the way we communicate care and expertise and professionalism. If all you’re doing is the standard amount, all you’re going to get is the standard compensation. The hard part is the last ten percent, sure, or even the last one percent, but it’s the hard part because everyone is busy doing the easy part already.
The secret is to seek out the work that most people believe isn’t worth the effort. That’s what you get paid for.