He had prepared for weeks.
The audience included ‘senior management’ – two middle aged men who would rather be anywhere else than spend their uber important time listening to a ‘kid’ speak. One of them had a smirk when coming in to the conference room, like sayin’ – ‘you are gonna say something which is important enough for me?’
And that was in addition to the thirty odd normal folk. Including his teammates who were nervous but also a wee bit relieved that they were in the audience and not giving the presentation.
Everyone was in finally.
He was in his favorite white shirt, raring to go.
Just then the projector blew out. He could actually see the soul of the projector escaping from the stuffy room.
A teammate, bless her soul, donned her crisis management role. In a flash, she got the security guy to bring in a replacement projector from the next conference room.
He connected the conf. room comp to the new projector and switched it on.
He tried all the switches. Even the one listed ‘off’. Every second moving closer to panic. His agnositicism was being strained and he was close to falling down on his feet and preying to the projector gods. ‘Please, turn on, please’.
The teammate, bless her soul, was on the phone in a jiffy, trying to get the technician along with a new projector from another floor.
Smirky vetoed it. “We have wasted close to half an hour here. Do it without the projector please.”
What? How was he going to remember even the subject without his PowerPoint presentation he had spent weeks making.
He looked around the room and except for his teammates, everyone else sorta seemed to like the idea.
The teammate, bless her soul, had taken a printout of the slides with her. She handed it to him.
That ended up being the best presentation he ever gave.
I think the world would be better if we had less PowerPoint in it.
And that story was not fictional.
At least not fully.
Any white-collar worker who has spent a reasonable amount of time in the corporate, non-profit or even the government sectors has been a victim or been a perpetrator of what can be called ‘torture by PowerPoint’.
These are ‘presentations’, ‘knowledge management sessions’, ‘sales pitches’ etc all hanging on a beeeg PowerPoint presentation, full of bullet points, animations, graphs, pie charts, text so small you can’t read, grotesquely unaesthetic clipart and sometimes even sound.
The audience looks at the projection rather than at the presenter who is fully focused on moving through all his slides and in expanding every bullet point and graph.
Even he would rather be somewhere else than in that room.
I don’t know about you, but many a time, I’ve been tempted to tell the presenters to switch the damn thing off and just tell us what he wanted to say and be done with it quicker.
And hey, I’m no Microsoft hater here. Also, blaming the tool instead of the users is weaselish to the core. So let me say this first – I think PowerPoint is a super-easy to use, well designed piece of software.
But perhaps that is exactly the problem. Since it is too easy to use, since it makes it so easy to customize our presentations, it enables us to very easily shoot ourselves in the foot.
It allows us to use it as a word processor, putting in all the text in there that we want and then reading it out.
It has spawned a culture of ‘bullet pointing’ and dumbing down complex ideas and facts.
And the biggest PowerPoint sin is done when people give ‘slideshows’ with no sense of narrative, forgetting that it is what they have to say that is the important part of the presentation, not the PowerPoint slides they have made.
In your next presentation, use a presentation with the smallest possible number of slides, no bullet points, and use it as it was intended to be used – as a visual memory marker for your audience.
Most importantly, put the focus on you and what you have to say.
Believe me, you’ll like it.
And more importantly, so will your audience.