Consulting Slide Decks : The Secret Sauce

One thing that consultants at MBB firms share among themselves is their love for slide decks.

Consultants are always aiming to create super detailed and analysis heavy slide decks for the clients.

In essence, they’re making a powerpoint presentation (they call it deck), but the deck is slightly more than presentation.

A deck has a storyline whereas a powerpoint presentation may or may not have a storyline.

But it is not that simple.

Managers and executives in almost all other firms outside of consulting usually make presentations and to be honest they do a good job to satisfy management’s short term needs.

Then, why do consultants get to charge sky-high prices for a consulting deck that they deliver at the end of their consulting engagement?

Imagine if someone gives you all the research materials, data, and even conclusions on a certain consulting project.

Can you write a report that will summarise the important details and make your work feel “worthy” at first glance by the client?

It is tougher than you think it is!

The problem is that the majority of data, research materials, and conclusions are usually messy, lengthy, and often confusing.

If you pile up a bunch of data and facts that have no logical relationship, the reader would not be interested in moving beyond the third slide.

I am not saying consulting presentations are the most interesting to read but consultants at MBB (McKinsey, Bain & BCG) do a better job in conveying everything through a storyline.

It is not about complicated and colorful graphs or charts, it is about the analysis that goes into making each slide.

Every slide is tied to the storyline that runs from the start to finish. If something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t find its place in the deck. Simple.

What are the three most important features of a consulting slide deck?

Headlines of a consulting deck are consistent

When you read a newspaper, often the first thing that you look at is the headline.

They are framed to be catchy and somewhat explanatory of the content.

The same is the case with MBB presentations.

The headline of every slide or page is designed to capture audience attention, summarize the contents on the slide and importantly contribute to the storyline.

Even the graphs and charts would have a self explanatory heading in the consulting slide deck.

All the headlines would be consistent with the narrative of the consulting deck.

Content is the king in consulting decks

Consultants spend days and nights on a single slide to make it perfect. It is not the cosmetic perfection like fonts and colors.

It is the exhibits and analysis that are placed on each slide that makes consultants charge hefty fees for their work.

In a non-consulting world, most managers would just be repackaging data and presenting it to the management but it is not the same in consulting.

What you learned from analysing 1 year of sales data for a client would take up probably just 1-slide in the consulting deck!

The focus is always on presenting value-adding insights to the client. It often involves high quality data synthesis.

Every MBB consultant and engagement manager would spend hours on finding the right framework and exhibits to be presented on the slide.

The so-what in consulting decks

Imagine sharing your life story with someone and the other person asks you ‘so what?’

This can be the case with consulting slide decks too.

Often they are too dense and data-rich that the reader is actually lost in the details.

It is natural for someone to ask, ‘so-what’ at the end of reading a slide. It is just like asking, what is in it for me? What is the key takeaway from all the complicated content you just showed?

This is where MBB consultants would add a takeaway on almost every slide to make the reader follow the storyline.

If you see, consulting slide decks often revolve around a storyline. This is the journey which the reader would take from point A to B.

The idea is the readers are able to change their mindset and take strategic initiatives to move from point A to B.

That is why MBB consultants are often known as strategy consultants. They help top leaders in leading firms change their mindset and take strategic steps for moving from point A to B.

The deck is the vehicle that helps leaders move from point A to B with conviction of rigorous and detailed analysis that MBB consultants put on each slide.

Why are these concepts important?

This is important for anyone who is making a transition into consulting, thinking about a consulting job or just curious about making a consultant like slides.

It is a craft that might look easy on the surface but takes a lot of practice to master. Start with small steps and you’ll see improvements in your presentations..errm..slide decks!

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