Worked with a presenter today who had a beautiful presentation — I don’t know that I could have been as creative and visual as the final product he produced. It had pictures, few words, allowed for a maximum of interactivity, and was compelling stuff. But unfortunately, this was the second presentation he showed me. It seems that his beancounter friends told him the finance audience he was to give the pitch to would prefer a “more traditional” approach. So he rewrote the slide deck, coming up with a very traditional — and boring — deck that included one slide with 18 bullet points and another that had a diagram with at least a dozen entities and no less than 50 lines showing “relationship” (complete with the requisite transition, of course). This was the first thing I saw.Before he ‘fessed up to having presentation #1 (or is that #2 — the good one), we hashed through what I suggested for improvement. He looked exhausted, and explained he’d taken exactly opposite advice to demonstrate the show I was now critiquing. It was an interesting dilemma — a presentation that fit the style of the presenter that the communications consultant loved, trashed in favor of one that was all starch at the recommendation of a representative of the target audience. Who to believe?And if the audience truly wants something and will react to it, I’d be forced to say give it to them. But…There’s always a but. We went through the reasons, real and perceived, of why this situation exists. They really want to be bored? Well, turns out they just want what is comfortable. And they’ve not seen what is good, so they don’t know any better (one of my three main points from last weekend’s talk on interactive presentations, as it turns out). Just because everybody is doing it (did any one else’s mother use this?)…And let’s examine the audience. If it truly is out of the ordinary, will they dismiss it? If you wear shorts and a T-shirt into a banker’s convention, chances are you’ve lost any opportunity to speak before you even begin. But if you show up with props, visuals that grab their attention, and do something out of the ordinary, will they dismiss the message even if they are engaged just because it’s different? My guess is no, but we need to make sure. In this scenario, the reaction the pitch invoked is what matters. And as one of many potential pitches, standing out can only be good (assuming it’s for good reasons). If you see 10 presentations in a day and one of them is really memorable (in a good way), which one are you more likely to respond to? The answer should guide you to what sort of presentation you want to give.And if your boss orders you to give a boring presentation, what do you do? Well, we’re back to demonstrating value. And personal comfort and principle comes in to play, and I have trouble answering that for myself, much less for anyone else. But results cover a multitude of perceived sins, so get the audience to love you and react positively (buy!?), and it’s all moot.
Present for results, not for comfort (yours or theirs).