Tuesday, January 15, 2013

McKinsey Presentations: The Page Pull Deck and How to Build One

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There are many types of PowerPoint decks that your McKinsey boss might ask for.  One that is relatively common and easy to prepare is the "page pull" deck.  In this post I'll cover what it is, and how it's used...

What is a page pull deck?

A "deck" is consulting-speak for a Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT) presentation, or collection of PPT pages.  A "page pull" is when you use an existing page that has already been created, usually by your team, the Firm, or your client.  A "page pull deck" is, therefore, an entire presentation created by cobbling together pages from other, preexisting presentations.  Think of it as forming a poker hand by picking and choosing the specific cards you want.

How should I assemble a page pull deck?

1.  Understand the request

The first thing you'll want to do is understand what your McKinsey boss wants to accomplish with the deck.  You need to know the topic so you can reference the right materials.  You need to know how the deck will be used to understand which pages to pull and how much material you need.

Often, you'll be asked for page pulls because your McKinsey boss doesn't want you to over-invest time in creating new materials or revising existing materials.  But, it's worth asking in advance what the expectations are for how polished the final product needs to be.

2.  Gather the source material

To create a page pull deck, you need PPT documents from which to pull.  Make sure you have all of the relevant source material available - all of the PPT decks that might contain useful information or analyses.  Don't limit your scope to pages you or your team created.  If you're not at McKinsey, think about decks from colleagues, other departments, old documents in your own department, or decks created by consultants.  If you are at McKinsey, remember to check Know for relevant Practice Documents (PDs), ask the appropriate McKinsey Practice for relevant decks, reach out to other teams, Partners, Firm experts, and don't forget about your clients - they often have treasure troves of material.  Remember to ask your McKinsey boss if there are specific documents that should be included in your search.

3.  Select the appropriate pages

As you assemble the source material, familiarize yourself with the contents - it helps to have a sense of what you have before you start pulling specific pages.  Once you start pulling pages, it's better to err on the side of pulling too many pages.  It's easier to cut from your page pull deck than it is to have to hunt through the source material for a page you later realized you should have pulled.  It's also helpful to record the source document on each page you pull for future reference.

4.  Make edits as needed

Usually, when you're asked for a page pull deck, your McKinsey boss just wants a collection of pages.  This is often the case when the deck is for internal, team problem solving or to understand what information the team has on a specific issue.  If this is the case, congratulations, you're done!

However, sometimes there's a need for the pulled pages to be assembled into a storyline.  If that's the case, you'll want to rearrange the sequence of pages and revise the leads (the titles or headlines of each page) to tell the right story.  It will also become apparent where your storyline is missing pages - this is a great way to understand what new material you and your team need to create to fill in the holes in the storyline.

How page pull decks are used

Usually, page pull decks are created for internal, team uses because the intent is to minimize any additional work that needs to be done.  However, under the right circumstances - and with a little extra work - they are sometimes presented to clients.  Here are the most common uses for page pull decks:

1.  Internal problem-solving

Time with McKinsey partners or your former McKinsey boss might be hard to come by.  So, when you have a chance to pick their brain on a topic, you want to make the most of the opportunity to problem solve with them.  It's much easier and constructive if you can put materials in front of them that capture what you know and don't know about the problem you're trying to solve.

However, no one wants you over-investing time on putting together a document for an internal meeting.  One way to balance getting the right information together to put your question into context and saving time is to rely on page pulls.

2.  Identifying workstream needs

If you have a client deliverable to prepare, using page pulls can help you storyline the presentation.  Figure out the story you want to tell the client, then start assembling page pulls to populate the narrative.  As you go through the process, you'll find that you can't find pages to pull for the entire story you want to tell.  Whenever that happens, create a placeholder page - a blank page that has just a lead and/or headline and perhaps some notes on the content you'd need to continue advancing the story.

Once you complete the storyline deck, you can use the placeholder pages to define the additional work that needs to be done.  You might also find that some of the pulled pages need additional work, too like updating old data, refreshing some analyses, or wordsmithing leads, headlines, or takeaways.

3.  Presenting a subset of existing client materials

Often, after presenting materials to a client, there will be a need to present subsets of those materials to specific client groups.    When that happens, it doesn't make sense to build each audience-specific deck from scratch when there's a larger, "master" document available for page pulls.  In addition to making life easier of you and your team, it also ensures that each audience is getting materials and messages that are consistent with the master document

For example, suppose your team prepared an enterprise-wide strategy that your client presented to the Board of Directors.  Now, your client needs to give presentations to the leaders of each Department in the company, but a) you won't have time to go through the entire master document with each Department and b) not all of the master is relevant to every Department.  Rather than create brand new decks for each Department, your team can pull relevant pages from the master document.  In this case, you might pull the intro chapter, the Department-specific chapter, and any other relevant pages from other Department chapters.

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