Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Interrupt the norm—Nix the slides for a change.

I had the best time presenting at a leadership conference last week. I was invited to facilitate an hour-long concurrent session on Emotional Intelligence. Based on registration and the size of the room I was presenting in, I was told to anticipate between 150 and 175 attendees, and well over 160 attended. Most important presentation tool of the day? —A wireless mic. Nothing more disengaging than having to yell across a room to be heard….Can you all hear me!???

Understanding that a slide deck has become an expected element of a “presentation”, I took a few days to decide…Slide deck or no slide deck? Based on the topic (i.e., Emotional Intelligence—The ability to be attuned to our own emotions and reactions, and the emotions and reactions of others) I was leaning strongly towards…no slide deck. My objective was to genuinely engage participants to contribute ideas, while I provided some valuable information, ideas, strategy and food for thought. My plan was to create handouts that helped them learn, participate in an exercise, and take notes. I finally decided to nix the slide deck, and simply connect with the audience. Somewhat of a risk, I realized, but I was steadfast in my decision.

After offering a few opening remarks, I brought the audience’s attention to the blank wall behind me and asked: “Did you notice? No slides.” I heard an acknowledging murmur of “yes” across the room. They had noticed. I very briefly explained my decision which was based on wanting to be fully present with them. “Disappointed?” I asked. They responded enthusiastically in unison…. “noooo!”. I was immediately relieved and pleased with their reactions and my choice. We went on from there and shared a great exchange.

I wondered later about the audience’s positive reaction to my not using PowerPoint. Did they relate to the goal of genuine interaction? Or, was it simply that it was different from what they’ve come to expect. I think both may be true. Yet, I’m convinced that making some small change to the status quo once and a while will interrupt the mundane or expected, and raise interest and engagement.

I’m certainly not recommending that you remove PowerPoint from your tool box, but I am offering these considerations:

– Once and a while, less just might provide more.
– A shift in the norm may be a simple way to generate a different level of interest and attention.
– What norm or way of doing business might you shift a bit when working or meeting with your team—or your clients?
– How might you noticeably shift a typical team meeting, for example, to better engage your team’s interest, curiosity, or creativity?


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