Powerpoint under pressure: the real marketing

Statue_from_uncommon_goods No one much talks about this aspect of marketing.  To listen to the experts and the bloggers, marketing comes from people who are as well rested and stress free as 17th century French aristocrats. 

But the reality is, as most of us know, well otherwise.  As I noted in yesterday’s blog, I worked all day on a presentation that I will make this morning.  Powerpoint dumped a quarter of the deck around 8:00.  That meant pressing through to 11:30.  I went to sleep with the thing unfinished. 

Something unpleasant happens to cognition under this kind of pressure.  We lose our intellectual elasticity.  It becomes harder and harder to make the larger point.  It becomes harder and harder to see the larger point. 

I think this tells us something about deck construction, that we are working on the particular details of each slide, and then periodically perform a "fly over" to see how things look and where we might go.  At some point, these higher conceptual abilities just give up and go home. 

Now the writing process is a forced march.  We are visited by the sickening possibility that we might have to stand up in front of a roomful of people and have to embarrass ourselves.  (After teaching my first class at HBS, I asked a colleague how I did.  "Fine," he said, "there was no spreading stain on the front of your trousers, and that’s the first thing we look for.")  And now that Powerpoint mysteriously erased a quarter of the presentation, we are living with this fear too.  As time runs out, the pressure increases, the elasticity diminishes, and …

The thing I hate most is that the swirling stops.  When we’re well rested, it’s as if the deck and the writing process is surrounded by lots of little idea parts and possibilities.  Best case, we draw on these as we go.  But when fear and exhaustion have done their work, the creative world becomes very quiet.  We move from powerpoint to powerpoint, but really it’s not happening. 

The trouble is I am, as we often are, working with diminished resources.  I spend Sunday, Monday and half of Tuesday working flat out on a new project for a new client.  I finished on schedule but I could tell I was feeling a little glasseyed.  I took a break, to "recharge."  But when really tired, we are very like the batteries that used to plague the laptop industry.  Batteries would suffer a "false floor" effect.  We could recharge them all we wanted, but they weren’t going get more than a 20% charge. 

So if we have been overdoing, rushing from one high pressured project to another, there is a cumulative cost.  The usual remedial effort doesn’t help.  We are now working with a permanent deficit.  Sleep helps.  And last night I got 7 hours.  I found myself dreaming about the deck. 

I got up this morning and the 20% charge was enough to help me see how to complete the thing.  I present in an hour.  I will let you know later in the day how things went. 

4 thoughts on “Powerpoint under pressure: the real marketing

  1. steve

    Good luck! Just remember that when the little icon says your battery is out of power, you can often squeeze a few more minutes out of it.

  2. Amos Bray

    That “false floor” is a tremendous analogy and one reason among many for both the spa industry and cardiac ward upswings. I too once lost a quarter or more of a deck, but a good deal more of my stress in this regard has occurred at the computers of others when they cry out to me, Please help me get my work back! In most cases, of course, I have been unsuccessful. In one spectacular case some years ago where the content lost was so critical that suicide for the creator in question was not beyond possibility, I spent a period of several days and untold hours on the MS Usenet boards tracking down a solution for corrupt data retrieval with some extremely helpful folks. I cannot now recall or have in the interests of self-preservation suppressed how much we got back. (The creator in question is still alive, so I must have done something right.) Anyway, all these failings and more are the reason it made #2 on my list: http://builttobe.typepad.com/destroyed/2005/11/worst_software.html
    cheers, ab

  3. Grant

    Amos, frankly I am astonished that soneone raised in the bosom of 19th century empire should have knowledge of this kind, but then there must be a reason why the colonies survived as long as they did. Thank you for dropping by. (Time travellers, even those try to pass as contemporary, are always welcome. It was a brilliantly effective impersonation!) Best, Grant

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