Continuing this week’s theme of PowerPoint and how much it generally irks me, I would like to talk about the game of soccer. I know that sounds confusing, but let me explain. In the last few years, I have worked with a multitude of South American doctors presenting medical trial data at conferences throughout the United States. This may sound dull, but their work is groundbreaking and fascinating.
Now, ninety-nine percent of presenters I work with are very attached to their slide decks. From turning away from their audience to watch their own presentation, to skulking at the corner of the speaker platform, unwilling to upstage the images on the screen, I see presenters continually putting their own physical presence second to the almighty slides on the screen. Never mind that often there are no visuals (just bullet point hell), or that the slides are filled with clip art (or fill in any of your personal Powerpoint pet peeves); this willingness to turn over all the power to the visual deck is deeply problematic.
When I was working with this one Brazilian doctor, trying to sever this cord of Power Point attachment, I hit on the metaphor of soccer. (He had shared his passion for the game during lunch). I asked him, “When you watch the game, is it the player that interests you or is it the ball?” Obviously, the players, he replied. Right, because the player is the one with skill, prowess and talent, the ball is, in itself, nothing, it does the biding of whoever kicks it.
The same is true in your presentation; you, the speaker, are the player and the slide deck is your ball. It serves only to reflect the power of your ideas, stories, insights and call to action. This is the correct prioritizing of the relationship between speaker and deck. You are the story. All eyes should be on you. Whatever props or effects you use to empower your story are merely that (and if they are well done they can add powerfully to your message). The doctor got it and it changed everything in his presentation presence.
So next time you start preparing your deck, think of kicking the old ball off to the side, and letting your power be the point.