A recent online message said "I'm tired of using PowerPoint... what's the next big presentation tool we can use in our industry?" Here's what I think --
When you prepare an SOQ or a proposal, you demonstrate your technical qualifications to do the work, including the training and experience of your staff and the projects your firm has completed. When you get a letter saying you've made the short list and inviting you to make a presentation, the client is saying "we've decided you're qualified; now we have to figure out if we want to work with you."
Therefore, other than information specifically requested in the short-list letter, the presentation has little to do with technical competence, and everything to do with the "fit" of the personalities of your project team members with the client's relevant staff.
How does the client determine whether this "fit" is good? They put people together in a room and let them interact. They talk with each other. Someone asks questions and someone else answers. People watch each other's body language for the more than half of all communications that is non-verbal in nature. Over the course of the session, the client determines which of the short-listed teams will make for more of a fun experience than any of the others. That's who gets the job.
And PowerPoint pretty much gets in the way of this determination. It's hard for a client to assess who will be great to work with when everyone in the room is looking at the slides on the wall, presenters are speaking "at" the client's staff rather than "with" them, and there is very little real interaction until the Q&A section at the end.
How do I know that the most important thing to the client is the interaction, the relationship, the "fun" quotient? Well, in the last few years, I have seen a number of short-list letters specifically stating that a PowerPoint presentation will not be allowed. Many clients have actually said that the quality of the work experience is as important to them as the quality of the work product.
So much for differentiation based on technical capabilities!
In addition, clients want to hear from the project manager and technical staff, not the principal whom they will rarely see during the actual project. They want their staff to interact with the people who will actually do the work and be in project meetings on a day-to-day basis.
Therefore, the next BIG presentation tool will be HUMAN BEINGS!!
What does this mean for the typical planning and design firm? It means that they have to promote or hire project managers for their management and communication skills, and for their ability to "connect" with the clients. Firms can no longer afford project managers who think they are simply the most senior designer on the team. As a land development client recently told 175 staff members of a California A/E firm, "if you're designing my project, you're not managing it!"
However, the next big presentation tool will not be just any human beings. It will be those who can stand up in front of a room -- calmly, comfortably -- make eye contact with the listeners, and speak clearly and confidently in a well-modulated voice. These people will not only be experienced speakers, but speakers who have had sufficient rehearsal of the current presentation that they are in control of both the material and the meeting.
For many years, firms have been saying that their employees are their biggest/best asset. This is now more true than ever.