We’re all influenced by fashion (yes, despite appearances, even me). It might be the promise of long sultry summer days that prompt us to make questionable choices (Hawaiian shorts never work, not even in Hawaii) or the influence of the crowd (leg warmers, anyone?).
Whatever the reason, fashion has a lot to answer for.
The world of presentations is not immune to the vagaries of fashion. For example, presentation technology fads come and go with remarkable frequency. Prezi is perhaps the highest-profile of these – its impact on presenters burned bright for some time. Indeed, it still commands a loyal following, which is more than can be said for the long list of ‘PowerPoint killer apps’. Only a handful of which remain standing.
Perhaps the most pervasive of presentation fads is the allure of the ‘Rockstar presenter’. Quite rightly, Steve Jobs continues to be held in incredibly high esteem as a product launch/visionary presenter. TED Talks are seen as the standard for conference presentations. And Simon Sinek’s excellent ‘Start With Why’ continues to make people think differently about their presentation story structures.
So far, so good. Well, not really. There IS a problem. It begins when presenters start to blindly follow the latest trend. Inevitably, everything starts to follow the same treatment. A ‘one size fits all’ mentality takes over.
In presentations, a single approach can never become the only approach.
We’ve been in the business of supporting presenters for over 16 years, during which time we’ve seen a fair few fads come and go. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been asked for a ‘Steve Jobs style presentation’ or a request to transfer a poorly constructed PowerPoint deck to Prezi, assuming that applying the ‘new fad’ will fix things*.
(* Spoiler – the end result would have been a poorly constructed Prezi deck. Technology is not a panacea for lousy structure or mixed messages).
This is not to say that the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs or the engaging tech of Prezi are to be sniffed at. They are brilliant in their own way and at very specific times, but they are rarely the complete answer to the problem. We need to dig a little deeper, apply some thought and stop blindly following the latest presentation fashion trend.
So, dear presenters, please take this as a call to arms. Start thinking about presentation skills in terms of a capsule wardrobe.
Knowing what presentation tool/story structure/methodology to whip out at the right time, or better still, what combination of elements to pull upon will take your presentation skills to a whole new level. Using aspects of each of the above (and a whole host of other thought leadership texts, like ‘The Presentation Lab, Nancy Duarte’s ‘Resonate’ or Shawn Callahan’s ‘Putting Stories to Work’) will equip you with a broad make you an infinitely better presenter.
And, just like the most stylish of your friends, know when to add a soupcon of a presentation fashion trend to your capsule wardrobe. Never lose the hunger for the new. Always be on the lookout for original thinking and a different slant on age-old issues. Just don’t fall into the trap of assuming that, just because it’s fashionable means it’s right (remember the leg warmers ).
The Presentation Lab: