“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Only one… But the light bulb has to WANT to change.”
That joke came to mind after I received a plaintive email from a past client of mine. She was working with a guest speaker for her organization. A professional in the medical field, he had submitted a presentation for his upcoming speaking slot that consisted of text-filled slides broken up by occasional charts and tables listing statistics and drug names. It was certainly informative. Certainly factual. Certainly useful as a handout reference work. And certainly a classic case of Death By PowerPoint, designed for an audience to squirm through impatiently so that they could receive their continuing education credits.
His entire speech was there on the slides, doing all the work of the presentation. It was very hard to imagine what the speaker was going to add, other than reading the slides out loud for those with vision difficulties.
My correspondent asked me what “easily digestible and forceful” document or article she could send this speaker to make him see that he needed to get his script off the slides and make his presentation visuals different from his handout reference documents. Especially when he honestly believed that every piece of factual supporting evidence had to be presented on his slides in conjunction with his speaking points in order to be taken seriously by his professional audience.
There are great books out there include the value proposition along with the tips. But we can’t tell a doctor to go read “slide:ology” or “Presentation Zen” or “Advanced Presentations by Design” or “Beyond Bullet Points” and get back to us later. They aren’t going to buy and read such a book. They have no interest in learning how to design better presentations.
So I put it to you… How do we reach the people WITHOUT a preexisting interest in making their materials work better during the live presentation? It has to be short. It has to be strongly compelling. It has to convince them that taking the extra time and effort to do things differently than they are used to has tangible value for them. It can’t be just a “Don’t do that” list of design no-nos.
I have taken a shot at writing a short article addressed directly to the casual guest speaker with no knowledge of or interest in presentation design. I’m also going to reach out to the acknowledged experts in the field of presentation design and see if they are willing to create their versions of a “Pitch for the disinterested.” If any of them decide to contribute, I will update this post and put links to their articles.
Together, maybe we can find a way to make more light bulbs want to change!
Here then, are links to articles targeted at presenters who need help but don’t know it and don’t care:
- Andrew Abela: Presenting To Physicians, Scientists, Engineers... And Marketers
- Cliff Atkinson: Rare, Medium, or Well Done
- Angela Garber: Death By PowerPoint
- Seth Godin: The Atomic Method of Creating a PowerPoint Presentation
- Ken Molay: The One-Step Approach To Better Presentations
- Garr Reynolds: "Slideuments" And The Catch-22 For Conference Speakers
And here is a potpourri of presentation pointers from Presentation Advisors' Jon Thomas: