Posts Tagged ‘PPT’



March 17, 2014

In past months, I’ve occasionally referred to the movement over the last ten years to refine corporate communications by using knowledge gained in recent years about how adults learn.  As we switch the emphasis off the one-way talks and incessant monotonous PPT, we have explored the benefits of creating interactive engagements within the meeting/event setting that do a better job.  We’ve measured the results; we know retention is expanded and implementation of new ideas going forward has a greater chance of success. We’ve been used as the case study by MPI as they introduced a whole new world to meeting planners called MEETING DESIGN.  The results of that launched last August with an 18-month campaign conducted by MPI to start a world-wide change in what a meeting IS and how to get better results.

Over those same ten years of changing our own thinking, we have also noticed a supportive movement developing.  In fact, MPI used a common denominator graphic through-out the Meeting Design launch.  That growing movement incorporates illustrations and pictures into the corporate communication plans.  If nothing else, it is a welcome relief from the bastardization of POWERPOINT as it has evolved from a Good to Bad supportive tool for Corporate America communications in the last 25 years!

This is not a new “gimmick; it is indeed a response to how much the world has discovered about adult learning , how people retain, recall, and integrate new information going forward from your executive conference, sales meeting or employee gathering.  Interaction and engagement do indeed play a key role – although I become concerned when clients translate that into something called “what are the interactives”- definitely a fingernail on chalkboard moment for me!

No, this is something we have done all our lives.  As children, we told stories with our crayons and stack of manilla paper.  In school, we learned a picture is worth a thousand words.  Our teachers drew pictures and scattered words on the blackboard/greenboard/whiteboard that generally emphasized key points to remember to “pass the test”.  We had notebooks filled with doodles as we sat in a course lecture-and, amazingly, we studied for tests from those notes and doodles, and somehow made it through our early lives of formalized education.  Through-out our adult lives, to give a friend the directions to a meet-up spot, we still draw a map; we sketch a picture or chart on a napkin in the coffee shop or bar to capture our thoughts in a discussion. We doodle as we listen; we doodle as we talk, we doodle as we learn.

Don’t misunderstand; I am not against the PPT as a tool and common point of reference in a discussion. I simply am appalled at how corporations USE PPT – as an easy-to-read-from the back-of-the-room-indoctrination BOOK– and thereby turn most communication opportunities into a joke.

 However, slowly but surely, the naysayers have spoken up and showed us a better way – with supporting statistics to prove that pictures and symbols deliver more impressive results because that is how we LEARN.

An inspiration to me, as this revolution back to what works is taking place, has been David Armano at Edelman Digital.  I subscribe to his blog “L + E Logic + Emotion”, so when I least expect it, I am transported into that world to which I aspire.   The narrative is thought-provoking, and the illustrations are phenomenal.  If you do not know of him, put him on your list! 

If you search for David on Google, you will find him everywhere including a lot of places you may never have heard of in the social world.  But before you get lost in the many sites, take a minute a click on “Images for David Armano”.    You will be transported into a whole new world of pictures and drawing that are indescribable except to say “never-ending light bulbs” get turned on in my brain!  Connections are made between Armano’s thoughts and my current project and I am filled with more new ideas than I could ever see to fruition in my lifetime.

This is how the brain works, folks, and this is why I remain motivated to cry out “Down with One-Way Preaching and the Abominable use of PPT in Corporate America!




February 10, 2014


A Little Background

Once upon a time in corporate America, we used a communication tool called the overhead.  We typed up a narrative or developed a detailed spreadsheet, magically printed it on acetate, and headed to the Executive Staff Meeting to “share” via an overhead projector.  We stood at the projector, pen in hand to use as a pointer, as we walked through our message and presentation.  

 Time permitting,  we translated those long messages to key points for the overhead.  If we were communicating in a larger meeting, we went one step further:  we created a 35mm slide as speaker support and communication modules.  They were expensive, so we definitely conserved on the words…one word or phrase did it and we spoke to that talking point or took notes of what was being said. 

Along the way, we learned that RETENTION  improved when lectures/speeches and discussions were reinforced  with slides or overheads and jumped significantly as we added images in addition to words, and occasionally, interspersed film. 

 I headed a pioneering group called the Meetings Division at Carlson Marketing Group that became part of those that were setting new standards and by the mid to late 1980s we were well on our way as we added theatrical sets, singers and dancers, car reveals , and “WOW FACTORS”.  Eventually the industry quadrupled product cost, but retention of the message got lost in the shuffle.

Meanwhile, new, less expensive, inventions came to be – the PowerPoint and Video- and slowly but surely we lost our way.  We morphed into a world where good communication was defeated by our own success.  On one hand, costs were escalating; but retention was not; on the other hand, we reduced costs, but retention was overlooked as the PPT deck became a book!  And really, reading a book to the audience instead of engaging in a dialogue does not produce engagement!

A Communications Revolution in the 21st Century

In the mid 2000s, a whole new way of thinking began to emerge about how we communicate with one another.  By 2005, we were learning about “A Whole New Mind” and “Experiencing the Message” and moving towards “An Age to Engage”.

And as I was recovering from my 2002 fall and not yet back to work full time, over the next few years, I filled my bookshelves with epistles about this new wave of thinking.  Communications were tied to real research on how the mind works and how people retain messages, learn, and change behaviors.  John Medina’s “Brain Rules” became my new bible.

By 2010, we lived in a world of engagement and interaction and slowly, our world began to understand  that we still were not on the right track.  Engagement and Interaction created learning; not general sessions with talking heads and PPT.  Some of us have had the great fortune to be able to experiment with new ideas, and most importantly see the retention results improve significantly and be recognized for the successes we have had.  I’m a great believer today in doing away with those General Session massive meeting productions that once upon a time, I helped invent!

Pictures vs Words

What’s that old saying?  A picture is worth a thousand words?

In 2008, I purchased a book done in comic book style called “Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink, as well as the Dan Roam book “The Back of the Napkin- Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures”In 2009 cameChange by Design” by Tim Brown, CEO & President of IDEO, and along the way, Cathy Davidson, Richard Axelrod, Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham, Jonah Lehrer and Richard Florida contributed their wisdom of how to improve our learning and retention efforts-many of them through the use of illustrations, not words. 

 Sitting on my desk as I write this is yet another book entitled “Business Model Generation”.  It is a “handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises.”  It was co-created by 470 practitioners from 45 different countries.  As I look through it, there is not much space devoted to printed words but page after page of illustrations that tell the story.   It is totally inspirational!

It, too, was part of what led me to suggest to a client that we dispense with PPT and use illustrators to help them tell their story to their employees.   They agreed, but…..

Unfortunately, this is a client that lives by the corporate PPT at its worst.  In their world, the old overhead memo reappears as PPT in mono-color with landscape orientation – even for a phone conversation between 2-3 people!  And yes, it creates glassy-eyed meeting participants pretending engagement while at the same time they are mentally making the “stop at the store on the way home” grocery list.

I think 21st century communication techniques may be wasted on this group, but nonetheless, the juxtaposition between this client and all I see coming from the DMCC Mayo Clinic and Rochester  reinforces the wave of the future and pictoral communications seems to be percolating there in SE Minnesota, much better than here in MSP!  And I want to be a part of that next innovative wave!