The medium is the message: your slides vs. your message.

The medium is the message.

I have been to more than a few presentations where the presenter’s slides were undermining their message.  Like a presentation about a simple solution to a customer’s problem.  And then using slides that are so full of text, images, charts and graphs that they scream complexity at the audience.  Like a presentation about the advantages of thoughtful design where the slides aren’t thoughtfully designed.

Presenting an exciting and new innovation?  Then your slides have to look exciting and new (not just those words on the slides).  Talking about efficiency? The slides need to look efficient.  In fact, the whole presentation needs to be efficient. Your visuals can be message amplifiers, message killers or just neutral.

Using visuals that resonate with and amplify your message is all part of designing a memorable presentation.  Presentation design is about creating a positive, memorable audience experience. Everything you say or show needs to help your audience understand and remember your message.  If your slides are telling the opposite message to what you are trying to convey, that is confusing.  And confusing is never memorable.

Maybe Marshall McLuhan was right even about presentations,  the medium is the message.


Joe Pops


Thanks Gary for the idea.

Contributor or cog?

Contributor or cog?

Every hour, every day, every week and year over year your career rolls on. And each hour, day or year you go through a constant cycle of… contributor or cog?

The Contributor

As a contributor you give those unique insights. You put forward creative ideas that only you could contribute. You get done what only you could have got done. You know when you are a contributor. That special “thank you”. That email from someone to your boss raving about you. The warm feeling, the tear in the eye, the fist pump. The great night’s sleep and the bounce out of bed in the morning.

The Cog

Sometimes you are a cog in the machine, doing a task that anyone could do. A task that may not make a lot of sense, but you grind through it. You know when you are a cog. The day seems longer, the mind gets numb, your forehead hurts from hitting it on the wall. “Cogginess” is often measured in acronyms, EBITA, ROI, ROFO and AOP. Or with words like quota, shareholder value and end of quarter. Corporations are very good at measuring and reporting the cog stuff.

The contributor stuff is hard to measure. The machine may not know it, but it’s the contributor stuff that keeps the machine alive. Kill the contributors and the machine dies. But somehow even dead machines, Zombie machines, can keep churning on.

Contributor to Cog Ratio

Sometimes I’m a contributor, sometimes I’m a cog, I like to call it the contributor cog ratio.
The ratio changes with time and bosses. It changes with corporate “visions” and market conditions. Stay in a position long enough and the ratio can swing to more cogging than contributing. It’s a challenge to keep a job “fresh”, on the contributor side of the ratio.  Leaders have ways of helping you do this. That’s because leaders lead contributors. But, managers manage cogs. Of course every organization needs both leaders and managers. But I have noticed that it’s not unusual for mangers to call themselves leaders.  Not sure why that is, maybe they don’t want to be management cogs?

A special contributor, the Linchpin

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he discusses the how’s and why’s of always trying to be a contributor. He has a manifesto that sums this up nicely, the Linchpin Manifesto. The ultimate contributor is a linchpin. As a linchpin you are generous with your time and share your unique skills with others, for free. Your always try to be an artist, taking the things you do to a special level. You know an artist when you meet one. One of my favourite artists is a breakfast waitress named Debbie. She turns serving you breakfast into an art form.  Linchpins take the initiative, to do the work, not the job.  If you are in a long cog phase in your career maybe Seth’s book can help.

So there are moments when I’m a contributor, like now. But there is a lot of the times I’m a cog. When the ratio swings to more cogging than contributing, you are going to want to change something.  Hopefully before you loose your mind or have the soul sucked out of you. Read some books, listen to some podcasts, read a blog (hey, start a blog), ask a friend for advice, find a way. Of course the last course of action may be to get out of the machine.

Because no one wants to be a cog, do they?

Love to hear your thoughts, if it’s a contributor day for you.

Joe Pops or cog # 000240922


The less than helpful metaphor: The sales doctor and customer patient.

Pain points, a lot of salespeople (and sales training) use this metaphor. The metaphor assumes your potential customer is in pain, has some urgent problem that needs solving. And that you are the “doctor” who can help them.  The problem with this metaphor is that it is not true, it doesn’t really apply.

It’s pretty rare that a potential customer is in an urgent situation (is in “pain”).  I just worked on an emergency equipment replacement project that took a year to conclude.  They were not in pain, but they realized they were going to face some big problems in the future if they didn’t replace the piece of equipment as soon as they could.  It was an emergency because it wasn’t budgeted for and the budgeting process would have added a lot of time to the replacement process.

According to business consultant Andy Raskin, there is a better way to look at potential customers (Pitch stakes not pain).   You look at them from a What’s at stake? perspective.  What’s at stake if they do, or do not, purchase the new technology or service?  What’s at stake for them if they wait until next year’s budget?

As Andy Raskin advises, your presentations should be focused on two future outcomes “one that your audience wants, and one that your audiences fears”. What’s at stake for your audience?

My presentation planning begins with two questions: What’s my message and who’s my audience? I am now going to add a third question, what’s at stake for this audience?

So as a presenter, what’s at stake for you if your audience doesn’t remember your message?

Joe Pops