Dad mentioned he had a presentation to the “admininstrative staff” level, his first to such lofty extremes. Over lunch, I mentioned he might like some help with the presentation (although I would not even be able to pronounce, much less explain, most of his content). Knowing my line of work, he gave a “what have you got?” sort of query, and I mentioned a few biggies — don’t talk to/read your slides, keep content on slides brief, use picture over bullets, tell stories, don’t start with “good morning, I’m so-and-so and I’m hear to talk about such-and-such”. I was getting increasingly close to the target based on the nonverbal feedback, and the last one got a chuckle from mom, who responded, “sounds like he’s read your presentation!“. When I explained the rationale behind each of my assertions, there was an Aha! moment, followed by that look of reluctance to change anything, certainly not at the last minute. Added to that was the horrific thought that one’s son could actually have something of value to add.When we talked about PPT slides and their misuse, his comment was something along the lines of “people at NASA wouldn’t know what to do without them.” My comment was they’d be thrilled to get a presentation that had a message they could grasp and would hold their attention.Some simple questions to rate your level of effectiveness in presenting your slides/handouts:

  • What does your audience do when you pass out your handouts? (they read them)
  • What do people do when you have a slide with lots of content on it? (they stare at/read it)
  • What do your listeners do when you read the slides to them? (they get bored/insulted — fast)
  • What do people do when you blank the screen or wait silently for a few moments (they focus on you, the presenter)
  • What do people do when you give them a link/connection/analogy that is off the slide deck? (they listen, and remember)

I think there was interest, but the ingrained culture and habits of the bureacracy coupled with the pressure of the moment, the lack of time to change, and the thought of The Baby actually being right were too much to sway this two-months-from-retirement-noreallyImeanitthistime presenter from going into uncharted waters.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

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