Russell Streeter

Throw Away Your Projector!

“Throw away your television
Take the noose off your ambition
Reinvent your intuition now”

– Red Hot Chili Peppers

It’s not really a good idea to try to read anything into the songs of RHCP. Yet as I was writing this Post, I couldn’t help but think of this song from “By The Way”.

While the lyrics are an excellent example of alliteration, I remain unsure as to why they wanted me to ditch the television.

On the other hand, I am convinced that we need to throw away our projectors…at least for a while. Let me explain why.

Does this sound familiar?

You are sitting through a presentation, the subject matter of which is only moderately interesting, at best. To make matters worse, the slides are packed full of text, resulting in information overload.

The presenter then proceeds to read the content of the slides to you, word for word. You regret having a big lunch. You look at your watch (again) wondering how long until the next coffee break.

Eventually, you stop fighting and drift off into a blissful slumber….

It’s difficult enough to maintain the attention and interest of your audience for any length of time, even when the topic is relevant to them, but one of the worst things you can do is to provide too much information. Your audience won’t process it all, they won’t remember much of it and they will probably struggle to keep up with you.

The good news is that there are lots of ways to keep your audience engaged, from the use of videos and story telling to asking questions and encouraging interaction.

But here is my top tip, something for you to think about before you even start developing your presentation.

Ask yourself: do I really need slides?

It sounds almost heretical, doesn’t it! No slides? How am I going to convey all this complex information? What are people going to look at? How on earth will I know what to say next?!

Of course you don’t need a slide presentation to convey complex ideas. If you don’t believe me, head over to TED and watch some of the TED Talks. Very few of the most popular talks involve PowerPoint and almost none of the speakers rely on slides to get their ideas across.

OK, they’re all excellent speakers who put a lot of preparation into those talks. Us mere mortals may not have the skills, much less the time, to devote to memorising a presentation. And TED Talks are only 20 minutes long.

My point is this: too often, when we have to give a speech, seminar or workshop, the first thing we do is the open up PowerPoint and start typing. We copy and paste content from other sources. We make use of fancy transitions and flying text to impress the audience.

We plan the presentation around the technology. But the technology is there to support you, not the other way around.

Instead, plan your whole speech or presentation without thinking about slides. Write down the main points that you need to communicate and think about how you are going to develop and support those points so that the audience understand, engage and remember.

Then decide how and when visual aids will be useful and effective, perhaps a picture, a video, a chart or brief bullet points. (And don’t forget about the humble flipchart!)

The Human Touch

If all you are going to do is read text off the screen and click through the slide deck, then I’m pretty sure that PowerPoint can be set up to run the presentation automatically.

To educate, inform or inspire your audience you need to capture their interest, pique their curiosity and perhaps even challenge their beliefs. And your projector won’t that on its own.

So in summary (and with apologies for RHCP): take the noose off your ambition, reinvent your intuition, throw away your projector. Now!