I have always been envious of people who can create sexy decks. For those of you who are not familiar with this corporate jargon, a sexy deck is not as provocative as it sounds. A ‘deck’ refers to a presentation deck created using PowerPoint or your presentation software of choice. It’s common to hear people ask you to, “throw your ideas into a deck” or “pull together a deck” for a meeting. It is a very common way to summarize a concept or information in an organized, concise format that allows the viewer to follow the thought pattern. A deck becomes ‘sexy’ when it has cool special effects like infographics, charts and flowcharts that dynamically and visually capture the idea. I have seen some incredibly sophisticated and super sexy decks.
There is, however, a dark side to these decks.
There seems to be a disproportionate amount of credibility bestowed on a concept when presented in a deck. I find that there is a linear relationship between the sexiness of the deck and the credibility the viewer assigns to the underlying concept. For full disclosure I should confess that I am incapable of creating sexy decks so I guess some of my cynicism stems from ‘deck-envy’. I can add colour and a chart but they are hardly flashy or noteworthy. I wish I could bring my ideas to life with a melange of colour, graphs & icons. So as you read on, know that I may be a little biased.
The dark side of sexy decks reveals itself in another way as well. Imagine you just created the sexiest deck of your life to dazzle a group of executives with your new idea. Then, you have technical issues and your sexy deck will not reveal itself on the screen. No colour. No graphs. No pomp. No circumstance. Just you and your naked idea.
It is during these moments when we learn if the Emperor has any clothes. I have seen many skilled sexy deck-makers freeze and panic in these moments. What now? They were relying on the deck to carry the story.
Those who know their stuff can still dazzle with their naked concept. They may pick up a marker and map out the idea on a whiteboard. A great idea looks great in a deck, a whiteboard, a flipchart, a piece of paper or even on a napkin.
I have witnessed skilled deck-makers take an incredibly complex concept and visually organize the information so that it can be easily understood and I think this is an invaluable skill set. But not all concepts are incredibly complex. Not all concepts deserve the labour that goes into prettying them up. In many cases individuals take copious hours and often days dressing up their idea. I personally think that in many cases this time is better spent on other valuable activities like solving a problem, mapping out a new idea, coaching a team member or helping a client.
So what I am saying is that there is great value in using an elaborate deck to help people to understand a complex concept or for a high stakes presentation. But don’t judge the concept by how fancy the deck is and perhaps I need to find an online course on infographics and presentation software so I can overcome this source of insecurity.