Are you still presenting like your Grandparents?

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

It seems that boring presentations are often a matter of heritage. Our older generations started to bring boring presentations to the masses when they discovered a device that was supposed to help but made the life of all audiences a bit of torture. It’s called the overhead projector.

An overhead projector is a device that allows transparencies to be projected onto a big screen or even on the wall. It was invented in the 1930’s in the United States and was used primarily for training and teaching purposes. The device was designed to allow the user to write directly on a sheet of transparent acetate projecting onto a screen. Initially things were handwritten, but over the years evolved to higher-quality printed slides.

This was the beginning of a real tragedy. People started to create transparencies with lot of text, organized in topics that helped the presenter not forget his pitch. The result often is a narrative totally confused with topics that had no plot between them. The result of these crowded and unfocused slides tends to be a lack of attention from the audience.

Even since the introduction of PowerPoint, the problem still remains. The problem that was once physical became digital. The “master slide” just gave the option to “add title” and “add bullets”. It induces error in the creation process. People start to think in “slides” instead of “stories”.

It has even become part of our lexicon. Here are some things you might hear:

  • Can you create a PowerPoint for me? I believe PowerPoint was already created by Microsoft!

  • I have a bunch of slides to show you You have slides to show or ideas to share?

  • I will put together some slides from past presentations to prepare a new one. Let’s try to mix ET with Batman and some scenes from Avengers and make a blockbuster!

  • My secretary has prepared those slides for me.· Are you outsourcing your pitch with someone just to save your time?

  • I will send this PowerPoint after my presentation. If you do this, it’s not a PowerPoint, it’s a document or a report

You see, the problem with presentations is that you need to have a device called “human being.” Many people think that a PowerPoint will save them from the shame of presenting a boring narrative. You don’t need to be on what I call “presenter mode”. It’s a mode of acting that kill your authenticity and brings to worst part of you. “But I don’t know how to speak in public”. Everyone feels this way. But the same people that deliver a boring presentation are the same that make friends and know exactly how to communicate in other contexts. So, the problem is not outside us. It’s inside us.

Today we have many ways to be “on stage” and it is critical that we make the most of the time the audiences are kind enough to spend just listening to us. The mindset needs to change from “instruction” to “connection”. The instruction process that our Grandparents used doesn’t work anymore. People don’t want to “just listen the facts” without some connection to their world. Sounds to me like a chance to tell remarkable stories.

As actor Kevin Spacey told the Content Marketing World conference in 2014: “People want stories. They are dying for it.”