Edward de Bono ponders the human need for PowerPoint.
I’ve never been chased down the street by an angry lynch mob of AV technicians before, bent on stringing me up from a lamp post with multicore cable, wrists and ankles securely gaffer-taped together. But I think that’s what’s going to happen when they read this.
The Rules of Presentation
Presentations have rules, just like everything else.
You have to learn the rules. Then sometimes, it helps to just ignore every damn one of them, just as Picasso binned his freakish realistic portrait skills and decided that eyes don’t have to be on either side of the nose.
Consider Edward de Bono. He’s the man who invented the term ‘lateral thinking’, long before it became a conference cliché (“Hey, let’s all think outside the box. No, wait, we’re air traffic controllers, let’s not.”).
He’s written lots of best-selling books on how to think better, sometimes with the aid of colored hats.
Presenting in a parallel universe
De Bono is a highly sought-after presenter. And he operates in a parallel presentation universe, where all the conventional ideas of what makes a good speaker are turned upside down.
Stand at the front of the stage, engaging with your audience? Not for de Bono, who sits next his overhead projector, sideways to the audience.
Next to his what, you say? Yes, the overhead, curse of AV technicians the world over, an embarrassing teacher-style medium you all thought was dead.
Overheads: Time for a Comeback?
For those with a long memory, early PowerPoint was hailed as a great, professional-looking alternative to scratchy overhead projector images. It’ll help you stand out, people said.
Now that everyone uses it, PowerPoint has the stand-out value of a white business shirt. And Mr de Bono is left looking… quite interesting.
Drawings are Appealing, Even Bad Ones.
Watch him in action. His little squiggly drawings work in a way that sterile PowerPoint can’t. And bear in mind that he can’t draw any better than you or I. But we know what a stick figure means.
And because nobody else does it, hand-drawn stuff stands out. It feels warm, human and individual when everything else is cold, electronic and mass produced. There’s a sense of occasion, because no two hand-drawn presentations are alike.
Handwriting Is Cool
When you open the mail, which envelope gets you more excited? The laser-addressed, window envelope one or the handwritten one? Handwriting is an attractive medium because it feels personal and there isn’t much of it about these days.
Staying On Track
Best of all, it’s easy for the audience to stay on track. With PowerPoint, the audience is never sure where to look unless you do a lot of laser pointing.
For de Bono’s audience, it’s easy to follow his train of thought, because it’s right where the pen is, emerging in front of your eyes, even if it’s in a scruffy fashion.
Great Idea! Should I Use it For My Next Presentation?
Maybe not. Don’t present your company’s financial update this way, or you’ll look like you’re making it up as you go. And you’re not doing that, are you? OK, don’t answer that.
Plus de Bono’s achievements allow him to get away with being a bit eccentric with his presentation methods.
But if you’re doing a smaller, less formal presentation, perhaps on a subject involving some kind of human behavior, get a whiteboard or overhead and give drawing a try. You might engage them on levels you’d never expect.