March 13

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7 Surprising Ways Poor Presentations Can Harm Tech Company Culture

We all know that tech companies rely on having a great company culture. 

One of the most common sentiments I hear from successful CEOs is "we hire for values, not just for aptitude."

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Most of us know that if the culture is wrong, the business is going to struggle and probably even fail. It doesn't matter how great the product is or how much it could improve the world. If people don't like working in the company they will leave…  

… and they do leave. "Job hopping" has now become the norm, particularly in tech where there are more jobs than good candidates.

Creating a great company culture is one of the key tools we have to ​encourage people to want to stay​.

What Creates a Great Company Culture

There are a ton of elements that go into creating a great company culture. 

Less-informed managers ​just look at the surface elements and think that these equate to good culture. They might see photos of Google's offices complete with fireman's poles and playpark slides. They might think "we need fun things like that in our office!"

But, most of us know that a great company culture runs far deeper than just free beer and table football. 

So, what does create a great company culture?

In the words of the Young Entrepreneur Council

"Strong Communication, Strong Company."

When our business has been built on a foundation of great communication, everything becomes easier. Teams become more productive, retention improves, and customer experience becomes much more coherent. 

Great Communication is Hard to Find in Tech

But, great communication is not always easy to find, even in world-class tech companies. 

All of us have sat through dull, impenetrable presentations that make us want to scream with boredom, right?

Back when I worked in robotics, I saw some of the most boring presentations I've ever seen in my life. These were presentations about topics I would otherwise have been interested to hear about. Topics which would have helped my own work… but I can't remember a single thing about most of them. I don't know how many hours of work I wasted "reinventing the wheel" because ​a speaker was unable to effectively communicate their ideas in a presentation.

Know the feeling?

In particular, poor presentation skills can have some damaging effects on the culture of a company if left unchecked over time. 

7 Surprising Ways Poor Presentations Can Harm Tech Company Culture

​"But, poor presentations aren't actually harmful, right?"

You might be surprised.

Here are 7 ways poor presentation skills can hurt tech company culture:

1. Harms trust in teams

I was talking to a friend the other day who works in game development. He mentioned that teams that work together on a project often fail to properly communicate their needs, ideas, and problems with each other. The UX team doesn't fully understand the DevOps team. The Sales team doesn't understand the Marketing team. 

Over time, what seems like just a series of not-so-great presentations and meetings can turn into real resentment between teams. One team stops trusting that the other team is doing their job properly. 

When communication fails, trust is one of the first casualties. 

2. Cracks under scaling

The negative effects of bad presentations are compounded in fast-growing companies. 

The style of communication that worked when you were just a team of 3 people sharing a hotdesk…  

… ​doesn't work with a team of 40… 

… and completely breaks down with a company of 200. 

When you embed great communication skills from the start, scaling becomes much easier to handle for everyone. 

3. Creates useless work

One immediate outcome of poor presentations is that they generate useless work. 

How many times have you unknowingly missed some valuable piece of information because it was presented in a boring or unclear way?

I recently heard about a presentation given by a member of a company's Data team. The person presented their ideas in such a dense way, the DevOps team just didn't understand what the Data Scientist was telling them. The DevOps team ended up doing work which directly contradicted some information presented in the team meeting and wasted a lot of time as a result. 

4. Confuses the brand voice

We often think of "brand voice" as ​only important for people in marketing positions, but when a company cares about how it communicates at all levels, brand voice comes out in everything.

Great tech companies all seem to be singing from the same song sheet. 

I've had the pleasure to work with companies where every single person in the company that I've met feels like a member of a large family. 

I've also experienced the opposite situation — companies where it feels like everyone is working against each other. 

When communication is ​within a company is not as great as it could be, every communication with that​ a customer, partner, or investor has with that company also becomes confused and that brand voice can get very murky.

4. Clouds the company vision

I am always delighted by the number of tech companies doing really cool things that could truly make the world better. 

Companies with a clear vision and the skills to clearly communicate that vision have a superpower. 

Poor presentation skills can​ cloud that vision over time. When employees aren't clear on what is happening within the company and where it's headed, they can soon start to lose confidence in the entire vision. 

6. Wastes time and energy

One basic (but extremely important) effect of poor presentations is that they waste everyone's time and energy. 

We've all sat in meetings that feel like a complete waste of our time. They drain our energy and often leave us lacking the will to work for the rest of the day. 

Imagine if the presentations and discussions in meetings were as fun, engaging, and interesting as a chat with your best friend. In a very early start-up, meetings can often feel like this, but as the business grows it becomes much harder to communicate well without training.

7. Demotivates people

Ultimately, poor communication demotivates us and makes us feel like we are working in an environment where we don't belong. 

Think of a relationship that you've had (maybe with an ex-partner, friend or family member) where you have grown to realise that you just don't understand each other. You gradually start to feel resentment, dislike, maybe even anger. 

This is very similar to what happens in a company when employees feel like they don't understand each other. Instead of being enjoyable, work becomes just work… 

… and that's not what we want for our tech companies. We want to be part of a team of truly enthusiastic people who are excited to come to work every day. 

And that means having great communication skills. 

So… What's the Solution?

The solution is to be intentional about how we communicate in our companies. We shouldn't leave it to chance. 

Great communication is a skill. There are methods and techniques just like every other skill. And, just like any other skill, it takes training and practice to become a great communicator. 

When I train people, whether in 1-to-1 coaching or in group workshops, they learn the fundamental skills that get to the very heart of great communication.

By learning how to give better presentations, people learn skills that they can take with them into the rest of their working and personal lives. They start to see their communication improve in ​all aspects of their lives because they know what clear, confident communication looks like and how to achieve it.

I believe that everyone has the ability to be a great communicator. 

We just need to be shown how.

Alex

​Alex Owen-Hill

​Hi, I'm Alex. I help ​people in tech to give clear, confident, ​authentic presentations on behalf of their business​ that truly engage audiences and get people excited about their ideas​. I also have a PhD in robotics from a previous life and​ regularly write about tech on leading robotics blogs. In my spare time, I like to ​look down from my balcony and imagine I'm really a giant (I'm not, I'm ​rather short).


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