JFK once said that the only reason to give a speech was to change the world.
I think this is wise advice. I’ve been reading a lot recently about the art of speaking and presenting, and the true masters of the subject seem to agree on a couple of points.
Firstly, PowerPoint is evil. Or at least, can be used as a tool for evil. Consider the following slide, for example.
That’s part of a real PowerPoint presentation given by a real military commander trying to explain the goals of the occupying force in Afghanistan. I don’t understand it. I’m sure the audience didn’t understand it. And I’m not at all sure that the guy giving the presentation really understood it. If you can’t get your key point across in a few sentences, you’re probably not sure what you’re trying to say.
Fortunately, the masters of presenting agree on a second point. Speaking and presenting is about telling stories.
Consider this example:
This is from a vastly better presentation, Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling. Go and watch it now. Seriously. I’ll wait.
Done? Good. The author of that presentation had a clear point he wanted to make, and made it with simplicity, creativity, and a keen eye for design. All the hallmarks, in fact, of the company that he’s talking about.
If, like JFK, we want to change the world, we’ll need to do better than endless bullet lists and obfuscated flow charts. We’ll need to learn to tell honest, simple, engaging stories.