Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Puzzle and the Presentable Presentation

“Death by PowerPoint” is an unfortunate phenomenon in large companies. It is a problem at some smaller companies and organizations as well . The topic was a recurring theme last night, among a group of executives invited to witness a presentation given by a sales coach and trainer. The trainer was not going to use any slides or presentation graphics except a few reveals on a dry erase board and a good old reliable flip chart.

The emergence of presentation templates and software alternatives like Keynote, Prezi and others are making all kinds of graphics, type treatments and motion available for incorporation into visual aids for business meetings. Creativity is unleashed in those interested in harnessing these tools. Our sales trainer was determined to show that an effective and compelling presentation could, in fact, happen without being compelled to have a new slide for every two minutes of dialogue. In fact, he proved it convincingly.
This audience, assembled in a state of the art meeting room with tiered seating and all the amenities of a university classroom, was treated to a polished presentation that did not require any technology to support it. No embedded videos. No colorful images. No bold graphic type.  No spreadsheet eye charts.  And nothing to divide the speakers attention from the task at hand. Instead, the speaker had material that was well prepared and found ways to paint visual pictures with story-telling. He engaged participants with sincerity. Feedback was noted and incorporated in real time, unless the topic risked going off on a tangent. (Even then he acknowledged the input and remembered to show gratitude with comments like, “Thank You for that. Great topic but I’m afraid we’ll have to come back to that one – if not in our allotted time, perhaps after-words.”

In sharing some of these observations with my friend Brackin, I noticed an eagerness to add to the another point of view. “Maybe the presentation software is overused and misused,” he said adding “I find myself using it as a way to organize my thinking. You see, the act of working through complex issues in the context of a presentation software helps me get a sort of clarity in thinking through a project or problem.”  Brackin suggested the metaphor of a jig-saw puzzle. By starting with strait edges you start to form a picture. That structure is helpful even if the ultimate goal is not a presentation to a large audience.
My net take away from the trainer talk and Brakin’s puzzle – a tool is a tool. If it adds clarity to your thought process great. If it is a crutch that diminishes your ability to communicate powerfully with your audience, not so great. What do you think?

1 comment:

Mark Brackin said...

Well put Wes,
Go to the desired result of your presentation and work backwards. Does the copy match the goal? Are you polished and well paced with you slides? Do you engage with questions to the audience or are you talking at them? PP is a great format for non linear thoughts to be captured on their own slide and sorted later. Kind of like making a to do list and ranking each task after the tasks are listed