February 25, 2010

Getting the resistant on board

The other night, during a discussion on image-based PowerPoint, one of my public speaking group coaching members asked me how she can convince her colleagues -- who are resistant to change -- to try a new approach. Here's my response.

A speaker always needs to think first about the audience. What are their needs? What will help them to retain the most information for the longest time? What is the best method to give them something of value, something they can use, something relevant to their lives?

When people cling to their old ideas about PowerPoint, it's not because they're thinking of the benefit to the audience.

They're thinking "This is the way we've always done it, so it must be fine."

Or they're thinking, "I need to have all that info up there because my slides are my notes."

Or they're thinking "I need to show every single detail and share everything I know because I need to look smart or I need to look like I worked really hard."

Or they're thinking, "I can't be bothered to learn a new way to do it."

You get my drift - it's all about them and what's easiest and most convenient for them.

When we turn this on its head and ask presenters to make the effort to do what's best for the audience, we might be able to make more of an impact on people who are afraid of change.

It's ALWAYS about the audience. It's not about you. It's not about how smart you are or how funny you are or anything else about you. It should always be about making the best and most effective experience for the audience.

If we know that wordy, bullet-laden, clipart-filled, logo-bearing, template-wearing visuals are not the best experience for the audience (and we do), then it's time to buckle down and figure out how to do something that will work for them.

Why bother giving a presentation if the audience gets nothing out of it? No one will be impressed by your knowledge if you pack your PowerPoint full of miniscule text. They'll ask for your slides afterward only because they couldn't see or read them the first time around.

Stop being selfish and only doing what's easiest and most expedient for yourself. Do your audience and yourself a favor and care a little about what they want and need -- then give them that.

(The irony of a slideshow on communication with slides that are barely legible did not escape my friend Jacki, who sent me the slideshow that these images were taken from.)

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