“How many bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation does it take to kill an audience?” asked one CIO of their peers at Infrastructure Management World in the US this week.

IT infrastructure, including hardware like servers for data centres and advanced core networks, can be a tough sell for managers in IT because of its technical nature, explained Atefeh Riazi, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide CIO.

Riazi belittled the common practice of "killing" a top-level management audience with a PowerPoint slide presentation that goes on too long or falls short on compelling art, pictures or humour. She explained that IT managers will lose funding if they can't figure out how to effectively communicate the business value of infrastructure spending.

"Every time we talk to top executives, we talk about where is the growth, where is the profit, where is our competition going to be. ... But there is zero discussion of infrastructure," Riazi said. "We lose them if we start talking about MPLS networks."

Fred Modruson, CIO at Accenture, agreed about the need to avoid technical talk and boring presentations when meeting with business-side executives. "You have to show benefits and costs" behind new infrastructure, he said.

Modruson said IT managers must obviously touch on technical terms when meeting with business managers. "It's a matter of knowing your audience and of putting things in context," Modruson said. "It you want to provide MPLS, don't start right off talking about, say, hardware and refresh rates. Instead, start by talking about how telecom costs will go down with MPLS, perhaps. Position IT as a benefit."

Does Modruson still rely on PowerPoint presentations to make his appeals for new projects? "Yes, but not as much," he said. One way to bolster executive briefings that involve slides is to have white papers available that explain arcane topics in ways non-technical readers will understand, he said.