From Harvard Business Review, Michael Brennan shares his insights into making better presentations by NOT using PowerPoint or other presentation software. By refusing the traditional approach, he describes ways of using objects and images to evoke emotions and persuade his audience. Michael describes 3 powerful alternatives to PowerPoint. He writes:
Immerse the Audience
PowerPoint asks your audience to learn by listening. We wanted our audience to learn by doing. We knew from researchthat experiential learning outperforms passive instruction, so we converted our hallway into a public benefit office that simulated the environment that caseworkers and residents experience every day. We had our audience, Michigan’s leaders, experience the reality of residents and caseworkers by having them sit in that “office” and complete the 40-page form. We even played recorded office background noise of people talking, typing, and shuffling papers as they worked. When the simulation was over, I recall one leader saying, “I had no idea of the complexity until I was filling it out myself.”
Leverage the Power of Scale
With PowerPoint, the size of the presentation is constrained by the technology or the screen size. Free from those constraints, we decided to use scale as a key tool in delivering our content — and we went big.
To leave our audience with no doubt about whom the project was in service of, we created portraits of residents and caseworkers to orient the conversation.
To bring to life the insight that residents felt there was no clear path for them when they entered the public benefit system, we produced a 10-foot-high photograph of a seemingly infinite maze.
And instead of a single slide of the ethnographic journey for residents and caseworkers, we created a 100-foot journey mapthat became a walking storyboard.
As we led leaders past these dramatically oversized objects, we heard them say things like “I’ve never realized…” and “I see the problem in a new way…” These fresh insights and dialogue were a direct result of our choice to break out of PowerPoint’s scale.
PowerPoint encourages presenters to rely on a slide’s literal content instead of abstraction or symbolism, which are often more memorable and thought provoking and foster empathy. We wanted to communicate the overwhelming client-to-caseworker ratio. The caseworkers we talked to feel this deeply, as they navigated so many pages for so many clients. The high volume takes a toll on the caseworker’s heart and soul. They want to help residents but feel stretched too thin. We used papier-mâché to create a series of shrinking hearts and hung them in sequence. We brought the heavy caseloads to life with 750 dangling ropes, each one symbolizing a client. Our visitors had to walk through and spread apart the maze of 10-foot-long ropes to navigate the immersive experience.
We also took the 40-page benefit form, cut out every redundancy, crossed out every line of legal text, and displayed what remained so that the audience could step back, contemplate, and use their imagination.
At the end of the visit, one state leader said it was the most powerful meeting he had been to in 32 years. With simple tools, creativity, and elbow grease, we made our content come alive. When we ditched PowerPoint, we created something that was able to speak to both the head and the heart. We pushed our audience to change the way public benefits are accessed and delivered in Michigan by piloting a new form that is 80% shorter.
Read the full story at To Persuade People, Trade PowerPoint for Papier-Mâché