I have spent a large amount of my working life producing presentations. It is a sad admission but it is the truth. I have also spent a similarly large proportion of my time presenting my ideas to “stakeholders” to persuade them that an idea will fly. I am proud to say that on the great majority of occasions I have been successful… eventually.
So why then am I so negative about presentations?
The reason is simple; they just don’t work.
But didn’t I just say that my presentations have been predominantly successful? I did, but I didn’t say for how long. The problem with a presentation is that it is purely cerebral. It is an idea conveyed through images, words and presence and it creates understanding in the audience, but it doesn’t create belief.
Understanding is something nebulous that fades with time, whilst belief is something fundamental that lasts. If you fail to create belief in your audience then you will lose them. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually, and then you will have to start again. But a message given the second time loses its impact and your audience has now started the journey back to where they were when you first met them – non-believers.
Belief is the key, and the only way you create real belief in a person is when they can “touch it, and live it”. This is a mantra I repeat to my colleagues on a regular basis, and something that I am practicing in my daily working life.
You only truly sell a new idea once it is real, and to make it real you have to get on and build it… And this is where the dilemma kicks in. How can you build it if you haven’t persuaded your audience to let you build it? At this point I’m sure you are thinking of all those times you persuaded your audience to let you build something, but was it something truly new, or simply a variation on something built before. Something that they had already “touched, and lived”, and therefore already believed. This is the real key. To truly innovate we have to persuade people that something they have no experience of or belief in is worth doing.
For true innovation, presentations are pointless. You have nothing to present. Your audience will not believe. You simply have to accept the truth of this and get on and build it, and you have to find a way to get on with the building without persuading an audience to let you do it.
This is what innovators do, and if you’re not doing it you’re not innovating.
So if you have an idea, put down the pen, shut down powerpoint or prezi or whatever new fancy presentation tool you might have discovered. They may impress your colleagues and they may make you look cool, but unless your business model is based on earning money from presenting, they simply will not work.
Stop presenting and start building. Then once you have built something let people touch it, let them live it and make them believe!
But of course this blog post is a complete waste of time...
You can’t touch it and you can’t live it… so you won’t believe.
The Enterprising Architect