No one dreams in bullet points

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Inspiration. Motivation. Vision. We think of great orators like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, or John F. Kennedy as rousing something deep inside of us leading us to great things.

Each of these leaders laid out a future state of aspiration. None of them used PowerPoint to do it.

You see, no one dreams in bullet points.

Why then do we lay out bullet points for major initiatives? The corporate standard slide just doesn’t cut it for presenting your idea for the equivalent of the moon shot.

Inspiring people takes courage. Am I worthy of suggesting great things? It’s easier to whip up a quick slide and read it to the group. Maybe magic will happen.

Often I’m involved in the announcement of big change and innovation. Just as often I’m underwhelmed by the announcement. We work to move the communication out of the mundane to the significance it deserves. Here are a few things to think about.

  1. PowerPoint is for visuals.
  2. Handouts are for text.
  3. Your voice is for connection.

Let’s look at an example. A CIO is presenting an important initiative to her IT team. The project is an opportunity for innovation within the sales process. The project will couple CRM data with customer needs, and generate a sales presentation automatically for the sales team to use, saving them time and providing custom interactions with potential customers. The goal of the presentation is to inform, engage the entire team, and have the managers take ownership and begin attacking the problem/challenge. The CIO is looking to inspire and unleash the talent in the room.

The CIO uses a PowerPoint presentation for the presentation. There is only one slide. It is the image above.

Why only one slide? We’re seeking buy-in. We want to articulate the purpose and the result. We want the team to visualize the final product.

Why an image? This initiative is important. We will get to the details soon. Initially we need to buy in. An image sets the tone.

Why this image? IT seldom sees the real business result of their work. This image shows the result of the anticipated work. Signed customer contracts.

Right from the outset we are doing something different than the usual bits and bytes discussions. We are talking about how we make a difference.

What about the details?

You do not need to put words on slides! Your voice can explain the title of your presentation. Your presence will explain what you’re talking about. The slide simply sets the tone. Remember, no one dreams in bullet points.

The audience needs details. Yes, that’s what handouts are for. There is a difference between PowerPoint and Word for a reason. Two separate tools. Executive Summary, details, plans, data. That is what handouts are for. Slides, shown on a screen, are to aid the presentation not to document everything.

The habit is to include everything on the slides, print out the slides and you’re done. If you feel this is the natural way to go you may be missing an important piece.

Your voice

Your presence in front of the group, your eye contact, and your stories are what is important. Think about the connection with your audience. What do you want them to feel about your initiative?

In this example, the CIO wants people to understand how important this initiative is, how IT can influence the success of the company, and empower everyone to do great things.

To do this, with the one image slide up on the projector, the CIO tells the story of how the sales person prepares for a meeting with a client, uses data provided by this future system, engages with the potential customer, and ultimately inks the deal that begins a strong customer partnership. She builds the vision.

The CIO elicits questions. She clarifies, underscores points, and finds champions for the idea. All of this happens in the presentation. You can’t do this as well when you read bullet points from a slide.

To do this week: Can you adapt one of your presentations this week to use the approaches here? Start small. One slide visual and a handout. A story that connects. Give it a try. Just doing it differently than the norm sends a strong message.

Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On June 26, 2018
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