The Blog

by Mike Hayward

Presentation Zen and the art of telling a joke

My dad really knows how to tell a joke. His cadence, his timing, his facial expressions. When the punch line comes, people are rolling. Let my sister tell the same exact joke and she’ll barely earn a sympathy laugh. Sorry, Sue. You have many other fine qualities though.

Which brings me to PowerPoint presentations.

You’ve all been in meetings where the presentation material is important, relevant and interesting. Yet the mind-numbing way it’s presented, well, cue the crickets. The book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery can help change that.

The book isn’t rocket science. But it’s practical, and smart, and with every chapter you find yourself thinking 1) yes, that’s exactly how we should be doing it and 2) why didn’t we do it that way before? Things like:

    Make a presentation that requires you to be there (as opposed to writing everything out then reading it aloud)

    Don’t rely so much on bullets (which PowerPoint prompts you to use). Heck, you might not need bullets at all. I know, blew me away too.

    Create metaphors to capture concepts and make them memorable.

    Simplify graphs to their core idea, incorporate photography, don’t slap your logo on every page, and so on.

We’re applying the teachings at C+F now, and Kurt Reifschneider and I recently gave a Zen-inspired presentation internally to show how it can work. When we started presenting, it was like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when they open the ark and all the viewers are instantly stunned by its awe-inspiring beauty. Except no one’s face melted in our meeting. Maybe it wasn’t quite that impressive but it was well received, and promises were made that we’ll try to do more of it. Plus people laughed at all my jokes. Thanks, Dad, for passing along the gene.