Break The Pattern of Dullness: 10 Questions To Ask Yourself
Presentations are often about trying to get people to change their thinking or behavior. To try a new way of doing things. To see a subject through fresh eyes.
Change is a tricky thing to achieve, because most people over 25 are very set in their ways and fear change more than spiders.
But what about yourself? Are you trying to persuade people to change something, while everything about your presentation follows the same tried, true and tedious techniques that audiences have been enduring all their lives?
Maybe it’s time to question everything you do. Just because most people follow a rigid rule book, why should you?
With that in mind, here’s 10 questions you should ask yourself before you put together another perfectly average presentation. We’re not suggesting that these are the ideal answers to a winning presentation, the idea is to suggest that it’s possible to break the routine a bit.
1. Why do you have to stand up the front? Why not walk down into the audience, get them to gather their chairs around you, and talk like you’re around a campfire?
2. Why not do a 5 minute speech and a 25 minute Q&A instead of the other way around?
3. Why not hand-write all your graphics with a felt-tip pen, illustrate them with your own childish, colored-in drawings, scan them and put them up on the screen to add some real, memorable personality instead of slick’n’predictable PowerPoint?
4. Why not do your presentation in the form of an on-screen puzzle they all have to solve, like a crossword made up of your key topic words or a something?
5. If it’s a small audience, why not take them for a walk outside and talk to them as you go?
6. Why not videotape yourself at work for a month – put a camera in the corner on a tripod and use a remote control - as you go through the real-life situations that form the basis of your presentation. Difficult phone calls, meetings, hallway chat, the rougher the better. Anyone can edit now, in a good-enough fashion - cut together short bursts of material that illustrate your points. It breaks up the routine and it shows you’re talking from real experience.
7. Why not put a large lounge chair on the front of the stage and talk to them from that, like a presidential wartime address? I suppose you can’t smoke a pipe these days, but would that make you look thoughtful?
8. Why not set your whole presentation to music, like a documentary narrator?
9. Why not restrict yourself to one word per slide, big enough to fill the whole screen?
10. Why not take a handycam, walk down the street and ask total strangers questions about your topic? If their answers are smart, it’s good material to illustrate your points. If they’re stupid, it’s good for a laugh and makes your audience feel smarter.
You can always find reasons not to change anything. There might be a Vice-President of Something or Other in the audience.
There might be a hundred other speakers and the meeting planner will kill you if you mess with their processes. But don’t let that scare you into eternal conformity.
Start gently. Maybe use a font other than Arial. Then gradually increase the size of the rules you break. It’s OK. You won’t go to jail, and you’ll jolt your audience into paying attention.