The goal of any good presentation is to change thinking, to shake the client’s foundations of belief, to rattle his or her assumptions, to create a new state a awareness. The presentation serves to evoke a feeling in the viewers, whether a client or a project team, and bring them into the moment of experience, compelling them to consider new ways of classifying and thinking about their world. It’s about the story. As with the impressionist tale (see VanMaanen 1988), the story is recounted including all the “odds and ends that are associated with remembered events.” An audience should be drawn into the story created both by the author/editor and participant(s).
Selective packaging of information to exemplify generalized constructs is a standard practice, even though the precise empirical situations in which the information is developed is perhaps far less coherent or obvious than the concepts they serve to illustrate.This is doubly so when addressing the needs of business and design teams with distinct,
targeted problems and limited time. Our editorial choices make points clear in what might otherwise be murky waters – we make learning sexy.
The key to successful engagement is to move from structural aspects of a story to the symbolic, uncovering systems of meaning that resonate with clients and compel them to action. It should never be a series of bullet points. Why? Because a brand is a signal that triggers a field of meanings in the consumer’s mind. These meanings are conveyed directly and inferentially through stories. By harnessing the symbolic power behind these meanings, strong brands move beyond the codes governing a product category and enter the personal space of the consumer. The same holds true for the client. Through storytelling and presentation of symbolic codes, clients move from fixating on the product line and can rethink what the brand means in a wider context.
So what should we do? First, strip it of text. The media tool is the comforting factor, not the content. PowerPoint serves as a frame around which to build behavioral norms, but what appears on the screen should augment the story and add color. Second, just because you’re using PowerPoint, it doesn’t mean that you can alter the stage. A presentation is like a play – so why not do it “in the round?” Promote physical interaction and direct interaction between the audience members. Finally, give people small tasks throughout the presentation so that they are not passive recipients of information but co-creators. The more they engage the more they will take away.