Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Adding Power to Your Point

Forwarded by: Roger Brown, District 53 Webmaster;

Adding Power to Your Point
By Jennifer Openshaw Contributor, 12/15/2006 12:29 PM EST

They don't seem to be listening. ...

... electronic communication has become so routine, so automated, so abundant, that once again we miss the important message. Moreover, it's so easy to create electronic communication we don't think enough about its content.

That's what I believe is encumbering today's typical PowerPoint presentation. Same stuff over and over. Same clichés, buzzwords, phrases, bullets and lead-ins, with different animations, backgrounds, shapes and graphics. It all runs together, and the audience is tired. We dutifully applaud each pitch, but the messages pile up in our mental "in tray," never to be fully absorbed.

Now, the point of any presentation is to get a point across and have it retained. But PowerPoint is too easy. We create slide after slide, all with some form of "creeping elegance" designed to "wow" and be remembered. But it doesn't work. What was the main point of that 20-slide pitch?

We rely too much on PowerPoint features, not enough on content. Some complain that PowerPoint really makes it easier for the presenter, not the audience. It becomes a crutch, if not a substitute for crisp, meaningful communication.
[ ... ]
So I ( Jennifer Openshaw) advocate trying a few proven speaking elements of the ancient (business) world. A few favorites:
  • One word at a time. Single words stimulate thinking. "Think" "Plan" "Do" "Act," are easy to remember and leave the audience hungry for more. Even a PowerPoint slide with single words -- instead of clichéd phrases -- can be effective. Of course, these words are tied to main points.
  • Handcrafted visual aids. Now, I know flip charts are hard to take on an airplane. But how about single words on single sheets of paper taped around a room? Or your own portable "cube" of cardboard, one word on each side, flipped into position at the right time?
  • Town meeting format. No PowerPoint, in fact, no visual aids at all! Just arrange the room in a semicircle, set a chair in the center, and talk! People will focus on you, not the slides. Tom Peters did it so well in the mid-80s in In Search of Excellence days, but I've hardly seen it since.
These "old-fashioned" techniques are different, and that's the point. Put them to work and your presentation will also make a difference.

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