It’s time we moved on from PowerPoint

I’m a sucker for a good TED talk and during some robust conversations with an old colleague of mine he asked why we are able to spend an hour watching a TED talk but fall asleep 14 minutes into a PowerPoint presentation.

Business today loses itself in the medium and often forgets the message. We complicate our message with too much content in an attempt to be transparent. In effect the volume of information, models, statistics, charts and arguments make things more unclear rather than transparent and compelling. One of the problems is that we limit ourselves to the tools that are safe and accepted – PowerPoint, Word, Excel. Let me be clear – they do have their place. But they should not be the be all and end all of communications tools.

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to spend some time with one of the very first executive coaches – before it was a trendy occupation. He was a medical doctor by trade and one of the very early things he said to me he made to me was that underneath everything else we are animals that respond to gut feeling. We all know that feeling that we get in the pit of our stomach – sometimes good, sometimes bad. And like it or not we often don’t pay enough attention to it. The tools we use to communicate in business go a long way to making helping us avoid those feelings.

At the same time we complain that it is really hard to get people engaged and excited about ideas or change. We fail to excite people enough to make decisions. We aren’t doing ourselves any favours with the tools that we currently use. They are one dimensional and they fail to engage us on any meaningful level.

Our challenge is to think beyond these tools and package the message AND the medium. We have everything at our disposal – video, music, storytelling, drawing, painting, theatre, dance, slides, roleplays and of course the devils we know, PowerPoint and Word.

John Bohannon accompanied by Black Label Movement, a dance company based in Minneapolis, showed us how dance is can be used to explain complex scientific theories. Without a doubt I was able to take in far more than if it was presented as a paper. It was also dramatically more engaging.

It’s time we moved beyond PowerPoint. Our reaction as humans listening to a message is as important as understanding it intellectually. Without a real reaction to a message we will continue to make half hearted and safe decisions – or worse still – make no decisions at all.