On being different (in presentations)

Be different in preparing your slide presentations

A while ago I read the outstanding book “Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd ” by Youngme Moon.

You might enjoy viewing the book’s video trailer to get an idea of the content.

“Different” by Youngme Moon from Lulu on Vimeo.

This book should be required reading for all who are in marketing and business in general. It pushes the reader to think/act differently, to be original  and not just copy what others are doing.  You can read an excerpt here.

Even though the book does not talk about presentations, it inspired me to think of…

Some ways you can be different in presentations:

  1. In addition to slides, learn to use a white board or a flipchart to explain certain concepts. Changing technique is a good way to vary the rythm in a presentation, something that aids in keeping the attention of the audience and invites notetaking.
  2. Mix slides that support your speech with slides projected on a whiteboard that can be filled out with audience-generated content, gathered during interactive sessions. People love to see their contributions writter on the board.
  3. Use a different style, maybe the conference room style proposed by Andrew Abela. In certain types of small meetings it can be useful to prepare printed slides and talk over them.  Prof. Abela explains how to develop these types of presentations.
  4. When everyone around you presents dense text and bullet point lists,  start making more visual presentations with less text and more images (even better: only one concept per slide with just a title and an image).  This requires more work, sure, but wouldn’t it be nice to stand out from the crowd?
  5. Make better titles for your slides.  Slide headings should be like newspaper headlines, not generic like “Inflation trends” or “Sales figures”.  How about “Sales not growing, why?” or “Inflation on the rise”. Titles like these go to the core of the message, reading them your audience has an immediate summary.
  6. Surprise your listeners with an amazingly useful hand-out, a document that summarizes and develops the ideas presented, and not just a copy of the slides (often of little use).

But the book goes further, explaining that it is not by copying the strong points of others that you get an advantage, instead you have to build on your strengths, make your strengths even stronger.  It’s therefore important to be aware of one’s strengths, and this too can be applied to presentations, in particular to content development.

Ideas for differentiating with your strengths

  • Are you great at data analysis? You should learn how to create better, more immediate graphs that don’t leave the audience wondering or make interpretation difficult for those who are listening to you. Do you know which chart is best for the evidence you want to present? You might want to check out these two books: “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures” by Dona Wong or “Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten” by Stephen Few.  A simple and free starting point can also be Andrew Abela’s Chart Chooser, available on this website.
  • Are you an easy talker? Don’t fill your slides with text, use images and storytelling techniques.
  • Are you an expert in a complicated subject? Develop metaphors and/or use diagrams to simplify and make your explanation understandable by all. The SmartArt function inside PowerPoint can give you some ideas.

If you like this subject, you will enjoy this short, stimulating video from the Drucker Institute:

Grow different not bigger

Do you use any other methods to be different from others in you presentations?  Share your ideas in a comment below.

“BEDIFFERENT” CC photo credit:  theprodigy @ deviantart