Key Messenger

A critical eye on communication, by Tom Poldre


About that presentation…

Recently I attended a luncheon speech by a senior executive from one of the world’s leading technology firms. I even sat next to be guest speaker. During lunch, his colleague indicated that the presentation had technological issues: the file wouldn’t speak to the laptop, which was angry at the projector from a different generation (my paraphrasing).

“Oh well”, said the speaker. Someone had to figure this out.

Being a communications trainer, I mentioned that slides and video, while wonderful, were not essential for a great talk. I joked that Martin Luther King never used PowerPoint; I had seen Margaret Thatcher in Parliament and she hadn’t relied on slides…

By the middle of the main course, the guest speaker turned to me:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if the guy from a major tech company couldn’t get the audio-visual to work?”

I said don’t worry you’ll be fine. Tell us a good story… Just talk.

So he started to speak, but the slides refused to cooperate. The text was cut off, mostly invisible. Stuff happens, we know, but rather than laugh it off and proceed, he wallowed in it: Trashed the hotel’s equipment; blamed the software. Ran his videos, but abused his slides:

“What this is SUPPOSED to say is…” or

“If this hotel would enter this century, the slide would show…”

And so it went.

I talked with audience members afterwards and what they remembered were terrific on-line videos, no analysis, and a frustrated presenter.

It’s a shame, because he’s quite a funny and charming gentleman with interesting things to say, all of which was lost due to technological betrayal.

So if I could rewind my conversation with Mr Technology, I would share these as my key messages:

Tell us a story, one that grabs your audience. Understand that audience, prepare insights in the form of messages which resonate. Package these in a meaningful structure, so our overburdened brains can absorb your bite-sized bits of information.

Next, BE the storyteller. I can watch video clips at home, download a slideshow from anywhere. What I want is human, passionate and purposeful engagement. (Imagine if Mr Technology had said screw the slides, I’m just going to talk… He would have held that audience).

Finally, don’t rely on technology to tell your story. Technology makes it easier to communicate, but makes us lazier as communicators. And if you must present with technology, then YOU personally must check it in advance.

Welcome you my blog. It’s about training people to be better communicators; about misguided communications that drive me crazy, and great examples of communication that need to be recognized.

Without the slides.