I had a nice email the other day from Cliff Atkinson, who keeps the Beyond Bullets weblog. Cliff gives really well thought out advice on how to transcend the usual death by PowerPoint and really use it effectively.
I was reminded of his blog again today by Tony Goodson who’s done a nice summary of some of Cliff’s highlights. And for those who are short of time here are my highlights of Tony’s highlights.
It’s always struck me that story”making” is the right model for our time rather than story”telling”. Storytelling implies that I’m a passive recipient of your story which is the model for most film and TV: I sit and receive your pre-determined message that already has a beginning, middle and end, and I don’t have any involvement in its outcome. That’s fine if I want to sit and be entertained — to laugh, but not think…….
…Everybody is doing the same thing with PowerPoint, so why not try a little experiment outside the PowerPoint box? Find a photograph that is interesting, but the meaning might be unclear. Let’s say it’s a picture of a swan. Place it on a PowerPoint slide, with no additional text or description. When you project the image on the screen, ask your audience, “What does this mean to you?” Listen to their responses, and repeat them back so everyone hears them. Then, as you begin your talk, spin the image into a theme you’ll develop through the story of your presentation, for example: “Has anyone seen the extreme makeover shows on television, where the ugly duckling gets turned into a beautiful swan? Well today we’re going to talk about the extreme makeover of a business strategy. Because with some hard work, even the ugliest strategy can be transformed into beautiful results. Let’s see how….”
…I created a PowerPoint presentation with 50 blank slides, then inserted a photo object from a clip art collection on each slide. I set the transition timing at 1 minute, with each slide fading to the next automatically. I told the group we were going to do a little visual improv, and asked for one person to volunteer to stand up. When an image showed on screen, they would begin to tell a business story — the only constraints were that they had to refer to the image in some way, include the name of their business, and that when the minute was up they had to sit down. At that point, the person to their right would stand up and carry on the same story, using the new image to prompt their part of the story. The story continued around the table until everyone had contributed their piece of the story.
I love Cliff’s appraoch, which resonates strongly with my own passion about presenting and engaging the audience. I think his ideas challenge many of the conventions we hold about how to behave in presentations, indeed in work generally. And he focuses our attention on relationship. Not talking at people, but engaging them in conversation. Great stuff.