Management consultants are heavy users of Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint – every interview, meeting, data analysis and research is commonly turned into insights and converted into a PowerPoint presentation and Excel spreadsheet. The client expects to get the findings in a nutshell, clearly structured and presented. The million-dollar question is how to become quicker and better at using these tools, without compromising quality.
While consulting is the business of selling ideas and concepts, there’s no doubt applications like PowerPoint and Excel are the instruments most consultants use to communicate their ideas. Mastering the applications is crucial when delivering value to clients. It might be the most important practical skill a consultant should have.
But let’s be honest, the day-to-day life of a consultant is busy. I know it, I’ve been a consultant myself. Calls, meetings, analyzing, reporting, selling – I could continue this list for a while. It comes down to prioritizing and allocating resources to the things that will drive results. But even if you’ve effectively prioritized these tasks, too many hours are spent manually building presentations and reports.
Storytelling is key for top consultants
In this blog post I’ll be sharing 7 essential tips for consultants. These will give you a good foundation for mastering PowerPoint.
A successful consultant masters storytelling via PowerPoint. That is my number one piece of advice.
This starts way before opening any presentation application. Great storytelling requires a deep understanding of the audience and communicating a clear message. Every consultant should outline what they are aiming to communicate, why, and to whom. A common recommendation is to first create a storyboard – draw and outline the contents of the presentation before diving into creating the slides to assure the message and structure is sharp.
Messaging and content should be tailored to the audience. For example, conciseness is crucial when building a presentation for C-level executives. Why? Well, their time is limited – meaning you need to get to the point quickly. By contrast, an instructional deck explaining a process to an implementation team may require complex visuals and detailed text descriptions.
So, to recap: the first steps are to understand the audience, build a storyboard, and choose the right message.
Save time while building high-quality slides
Building presentations can eat up a significant amount of time. Don’t get me wrong – creating the deliverable is core to a consulting firm’s business – it’s where the consultant’s knowledge and expertise is being captured. How it’s done is where the consultant and the firm either saves times or loses valuable hours.
No consultant in the world wants to burn dozens of hours building slides and end up with an inconsistent and off-brand presentation. Here are the remaining 6 essential must-know tips on how to assure the presentations will meet the high standards consulting firms have while saving time.
1. It starts with access to great templates. An organization should have a good number of simple templates available for consultants to use. We all would like to think that every situation is unique – but there are slides and messages that repeat over the years. Templates help communicate these common themes quickly. Therefore, host them in the cloud where your global branding and/or compliance teams can edit them and distribute them to all employees. This means all templates get updated to the latest version and distributed across the company with one click.
2. Be consistent in formatting. Make no exceptions on this, trust me. A consultant can survive too much text, a little clutter, and even an unclear story but bad formatting lives forever. Inconsistencies and poor formatting can kill even the best messaging. The audience easily judge the consultant not by the character of their content but by the looks of their presentation. Make sure you have the correct logos, disclaimers and professional information on the presentation. This can be automatically populated.
3. Have someone review the slides. The reader should be able to understand the message without much explanation. The ‘grandma test’ is key – if you showed the slide to your grandma, would she be able to get the general message? If yes, then you’ve nailed it. If your grandma isn’t available, show it to a colleague.
4. Use technology for validation and finetuning. Don’t manually go through the details in the complex presentation. There’s tools for that, like SlideProof and ProductivityPlus, which automatically checks entire presentations for possible formatting errors and fixes them within seconds while unifying the content. This speeds up the whole presentation creation process – while you can trust that the presentation is flawless.
5. Transferring and updating Excel data into PowerPoint can be extremely tedious with a great deal of opportunity for errors. Cutting and pasting charts from Excel to PowerPoint can as well cause formatting issues. Make sure to find an automated way to do this, while staying on-brand.
6. Be aware of best-practice shortcuts. Take the time to learn the basic ones for Excel, Word and PowerPoint. These will certainly speed up your productivity within the applications. Here’s a useful summary of the universal basics.
Download our key benefits overview for productivity tools in PowerPoint and see how you truly can take your consulting firm’s processes for creating and re-using templates, slides, charts and visuals to the next level.
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