CIOs, Avoid These PowerPoint Mistakes

Ann All

A topic I visit regularly on this blog is the need for CIOs to communicate more effectively with their business peers. When I can, I like to include tips that should help CIOs do this. A post from Mike Schaffner on his Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms blog caught my attention because it focuses specifically on PowerPoint presentations, a communications medium that is tough for many executives, not just CIOs, to get right.


Schaffner presents a sort of seven deadly sins of PowerPoint presentation given by IT professionals to business colleagues. I am sharing three of them here:

  • Showing business process swim lane diagrams. Schaffner says this "sends the wrong message" by making processes look more complex than they actually are. He advises showing only the major components of a process in a simplified diagram. (Be prepared to discuss how exceptions or errors are handled, in case someone asks about it, I'd add.)
  • Including a technology stack chart. Techies do love to talk about their stacks, I guess because they are proud when they manage to tie together the different components of a technology infrastructure. And they should be, since it's a challenging task. But, writes Schaffner, "The truth is that most people outside of IT don't care about this."
  • Using the wrong tone. If you focus more on control, governance and limiting access (all popular topics among IT pros), you may need to rework your presentation so it focuses on benefits and new abilities enabled by IT. As Schaffner says: "People are more interested in hearing what they can do and how you are helping them than they are in hearing about what you won't let them do."

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