There have always been presentations of one sort or another - although Martin Luther managed to get his 95 theses across just by nailing them to a church door - but, undoubtedly, they started out as pretty low-key affairs.
But somewhere along the line our culture changed to one where ideas seem to lack existence unless wheeled out before a group and accompanied by a whizz-bang presentation. From the boardroom to the classroom, experts no longer need to rely upon public speaking prowess to captivate an audience. They can present a series of slides with all the headlines, visual aids and research broken down into coherent bits, and the audience can simply absorb a lecture as it rolls across a screen.
Don’t get me wrong – slide decks can be amazing. When used right, PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote and all the other presentation tools out there can inspire, persuade, educate, mobilise and motivate. I love seeing an impassioned speaker deliver a compelling presentation (hello, Al Gore). But there are times when a slide deck isn’t the best way to tell a story.
I’ve seen with my own eyes meetings held hostage by decks with 50 or more slides. Decks that bombard audiences with chunks of eensy weensy type, bullet points flying in from the shadows, a fusillade of tables and infographics and pie charts that leave almost no room for the imagination to run free.
Thing is, tools like PowerPoint have a dark side: by squeezing ideas into a pre-fabricated format, they organise and condense not only the material but also your audience’s way of thinking about that material. Complicated, nuanced issues are reduced by presentation software to an outline; a story rendered without jumps, flashbacks or asides, as if Charlie and Lola were the most difficult tale a corporate audience could understand.
The whole point of presentation software, making presentations simple to prepare, is what makes them dangerous to the imagination. Their dependence upon pre-defined colour schemes, rigid layouts and one-size-fits-all templates limit the basic human capacity for self-expression. What’s scary is that slide decks have become a standard element of professional communication that, by their very design, keeps complexity out. And, while a world swept clean of annoying ambiguity and complication, might sound like an appealing prospect – it’s not really where we want to live, is it?
That’s why Scriberia’s clients often come to us looking for a different and more exciting way to engage their customers, teams and peers. To our minds, “engage” can be synonymous with “enchant,” and so our creative process naturally begins by exploring as many options as we can to find just the right one to fascinate our client’s chosen audience and keep us happy as well. We seek out visual solutions that will start conversations, and we work hard to make each rich picture, animation or live scribe different and memorable. We reach for the perfect metaphor, for the non-obvious parallels, for the spark of an idea that can ignite a whole inspired universe of visual and mental fireworks. How often can you say that about a 50-slide PowerPoint deck?
We know how much power a well-crafted visual can wield. Because our business is built on visual thinking, we understand how effective the physical process of crafting an image can be in resolving the many challenges each new project presents.
Since drawing and images activate different parts of the brain, a picture made by hand can do what slides can’t: stimulate your whole brain. Drawings can move through time, change geographies, emphasise different versions of reality, tell stories within stories. We encourage our clients and those who experience Academy sessions to draw as much as they can—and yes, anyone can draw: stick figures, arrows and boxes do the job. Most importantly, a drawing allows you tell a very different story than you could ever tell without it. Oftentimes, in the process of working with a client to design an image, our sketches identify gaps, differing perspectives or mismatches in an overall process, or present to the client a clearer picture than the one she came to us with.
Instead of opening up PowerPoint for your next amazing idea, how about telling a story the old-fashioned way? Aim to enchant your colleagues, customers and peers as Maurice Sendak and Walt Disney enchant our children: through the artful use of pictures. Help your audience see what you believe in – don’t shoot them down with bullets.