Think Presentations – Think Theatre!

This blog post is continuation of my earlier post “Everything you know about making presentations is WRONG!” in which I highlight the three criminals of PowerPoint Presentations! Not so long ago I was among the three. In fact that’s a good account of my own personal journey. Thanks to Jon Steel, who I believe is THE finest strategic planner in the world, is also the man responsible for inspiring this blog post. His book “The Perfect Pitch” is chockfull of tips on how to make that killer pitch. For this post I have just covered one aspect of his book – How to make highly impactful presentations! (By the way his book “Truth, Lies and Advertising” is essential reading for anyone looking to be a strategic planner at a creative agency).

So what are the rules of making a great presentation. Kill PowerPoint. It’s importance to the presentation development process is this. It doesn’t need to exist. Delete it if you must! (Avoiding death by PowerPoint needs some drastic measures! We are taking about saving innocent lives here!) OK? I will wait for you…come back once you have hit “uninstall” 🙂

So how to go about PREPARING your presentation now that PowerPoint has been annihilated? You can use the good old notepad, Post-It notes or if you like to go keep things digital then get a good Mind Mapping software (I use MindNode since it works on all iOS and Mac devices). What’s the idea? Jot down all the things that you feel you need to cover. Let it flow. Put it ALL out in whatever form you need to. As the barrage of Post-It notes fills up your wall distill the single-minded message of your presentation. This is the BIG IDEA of your talk. The one central thought that you want your audiences to walk away with. Now take any points that add to the this core message discarding everything else. No exceptions.

Why is this selection AND exclusion of points important? It is all about the flow. A single-minded idea with supporting points that are inline with the core message facilitate the flow. A feat that is impossible to achieve while working on the slide itself. You need to be able to see your WHOLE talk all at once. A Wall of Post-Its or a Mind Map helps you SEE this whole. Identifying the central theme of your talk with all the talking points needed to get your message across is half the job.

Now it’s time to add drama to your talk. The sugar and spice that are essential ingredients to engaging an audience. Questions to think about here are: What can I say to arouse their curiosity? How will I deliver the key message? What dramatics can I engage them with?

Approaching this step means wearing the hat of scriptwriter! Yes write a script like a theatre act. Just as Anthony Hopkins learnt his lines for Hannibal. You think he was reading off some teleprompter. No! He was living and breathing the script. To achieve this ability to deliver theatrically means that the script has to be first written and then internalized. It’s not about memorisation, but internalization. After brutally rehearsing the script over a a gazillion times can a presentation be delivered that way it should be. To be cherished and remembered. If Steve Jobs locked himself for a rehearsal three days for every major keynote then there must be a reason for it. The quality of his delivery is a proof of that.

Once all of this is done. Now comes the role of visual aids like PowerPoint. This is the time to open up PowerPoint or whatever tool that helps you create support material. This too should be done in a way to minimize distraction with more space for visuals and less text per slide. Developing effective visual aids is another topic altogether but not as important as the presentation itself. Perhaps I will cover this in another blog post sometime. Of course writing a script too is a whole new level of skill that is easier said then done. But that’s the only way to go.

You don’t get agree with what I am saying. Imaging if Martin Luther King had used PowerPoint to deliver his speech. What would it be? Don’t worry I have painfully recreated it for your viewing pain. See below. Then click on the link below to read the original script. It is mesmerising. I felt my spine tingle even after 50 years since it was delivered and I was only just reading it.

Now go read the script of the speech by Martin Luther here.

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