Friday, February 10, 2012

What's the Point?

"One hundred thousand lemmings can't be wrong."
      -  Graffiti
I have had the pleasure lately of being asked to contribute to some pretty significant learning opportunities and presentations.  Collaborating on effective course design is one of my favorite things to do.  If that was all I did for the rest of my career I would be a happy camper.

But almost every time I start one of these projects I have a “cringe moment.”  Why?  Because invariably people either come to the kick-off with a draft or they start by opening up PowerPoint.  Yikes!  How did we allow ourselves to be conditioned like this?  

A lot of people ask me why I hate PowerPoint.  They say, “Buck, why do you hate PowerPoint?”  And I always answer, “I don’t!”    PowerPoint is a tool, and good one at that.  But it’s just the vehicle.

Starting with the slide deck is like starting a trip by getting into the car with your group, pulling out into the interstate, and asking, “OK, where are we going?”   Do you ever wonder why most presentations and a lot of training classes seem to wander all over the place?     

So I’ll give you the method I give to everyone starting a new project: 

Start with Ideas.  Use a whiteboard, legal pad, almost anything.  Most of the ideas you will probably toss, but get those intellectual juices flowing.  Do not use PowerPoint!  Anything you toss on to a deck you will be tempted to want to keep.  It’s a bad idea.  Hone your ideas to a select group of concepts, skills, or impressions you want the audience to leave your session with.  Remember it’s about them – not you. 

Move on to Data.  Once you have your ideas solidified – what you want the audience to leave your session with – collect the right types of data to support your session.  These can be videos, spreadsheets, reports, images.  More is better.  Do not paste them into slides!  

Refine your Message.   You have your ideas, you have your data – now you should organize it all.  Think of the best order, get the right cadence.  Consider what to keep or what to toss.  You should NOT have clicked on that big orange “P” icon yet….

Now Open PowerPoint.  Once you have your message down, your supporting data collected, and you know what you want to say, you’re ready to build your deck.  How to build a good deck is another story.

In other words, decide where you want to go, look at the map, and plan the best route before you get into the car.  Your trip will go much smoother.