Just a week ago, one of my Facebook friends updated his status to "Jeff Rosenthal is suffering a slow death by PowerPoint slides and charts." It made me snicker and cringe at the same time. So many of us have been there: you sit in a presentation or a training class and are subjected to mega-decks of slide after boring slide. If you're really lucky, the presenter even reads them at you as if you can't read. It's a form of painful torture to many. It's the subject matter of many corporate jokes.
Yet, when it's time for you to give a presentation or prepare the visual aids for a training workshop or a meeting, what do you do? Do you succumb to the peer-pressure and commit the sin of subjecting others to a slow and painful death by PowerPoint? Many of my clients and colleagues feel it is a necessary evil.
I beg to differ.
Your Audience Came to Hear YOU. They Didn't Come to Read...
In the last few presentations and training classes that I've led, I've actually used NO PowerPoint. A conference attendee last month came up to me and my co-presenter in shock and awe to express her surprise and utter delight when she realized, "Hey, wait a minute, there IS no PowerPoint!!" She actually kept waiting for it to start, expecting the inevitable, so it took her a while to accept that it wasn't coming, she confided.
That presentation went very well. The audience was totally engaged. They were focused on US - the speakers, not the wall behind us. They had a handout with some key learning points and places to take notes. And they could focus.
Three Slide Maximum?
Just this weekend an interesting article came out in the New York Times featuring an interview with Zurich CEO James J. Schiro about his pearls of wisdom for leaders (a great read, actually). One of his main points is to seek simplicity of message, and he shared a rule that he's imposed in his office: If you come to present for him, you can have no more than three (you read it right, 3!) slides on your PowerPoint deck. Three slides, three points. Schiro said, "You really can’t manage more than three or four things at the most, but I like to see it in three slides. I hate PowerPoint presentations." Smart man.
Another 'hot' way to minimize death by PowerPoint is a presentation format hailing from the world of architecture and design. Created in 2003 in Tokyo, Pecha Kucha (pronounced Pe-chak-cha) is a way to consolidate your message into a graphic form of 20 images shown on 20 slides for 20 seconds each. The entire presentation is then under seven minutes long. Talk about forcing presenters to focus their message into a concise, engaging package! Dan Pink, the author who gave us great books like A Whole New Mind, Free Agent Nation, and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, has created an interesting video to showcase this phenomenon. You can watch it below. [Note: Dan pronounces Pecha Kucha incorrectly...]