Beating “Death By PowerPoint” With Original & Engaging Event Content

Beating “Death By PowerPoint” With Original & Engaging Event Content

In this guest post, GPJ Australia ECD Bim Ricketson (pictured below) says he sits through too many boring conferences and PowerPoint presentations and now he’s demanding change…

Ever been to an exciting-sounding conference, only to find yourself bored to death?

You’re in a dark room with a stage, some screens, and a seemingly endless parade of worthy but dull speakers. Before the morning tea break you’re checking your phone for distraction.

What should be a fascinating story fails to arouse any interest.

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 1.26.23 pm

Why? Because the purpose was not clearly established at the outset. And to establish purpose, you simply have to begin by asking why.

Commit to choosing a different path from the outset, and you will end up somewhere unexpected. Your why will take you to your how.

So, before you select a speaker, book a space, or start a PowerPoint document, ask yourself the most important question: why?

Why do we do what we do? Why should people know about it? Why does it matter to this audience, at this time, in this place?

This will define the purpose of what you’re doing; once in place, you have the foundation on which everything else can be built.

Next explore the what.

What are the messages that you want the audience to take away? What are the stories that will most effectively carry those messages? What supporting material do you have to substantiate what you’re going to say?

Clearly define what you wish each story to impart on the audience. Are there overlaps or contradictions, which should be removed or explored?

Now ask who?

Who is the best person to deliver each message? Who are the experts in the field? These could come from within your organisation, your partner or customer network, or somewhere novel. Invest time seeking out speakers beyond the obvious choices – hearing unique perspectives from unexpected quarters is always a better bet than the person who is hot on the speaker circuit this month.

Finally, how?

You’ve got your message, so now it’s time to explore your media.

Ask yourself how the content can most effectively be brought to life for your audiences.

The good news is that by this point, you’re probably so engaged with your storytelling that using PowerPoint seems like a massive wasted opportunity.

Here are some alternatives you might want to consider, to change up your format:

Lightning talks

Break up the format with very short presentations, lasting only a few minutes each. Choose speakers who will present a range of unexpected perspectives related to your central narrative. The constant mixing up of tempo and ideas will keep your audience engaged.

Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha, from the Japanese word meaning “chit-chat”, is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each. The slides advance automatically, which means the presenter has to be very well rehearsed and the fast pace means the content is honed down to its most important components. This format keeps presentations concise and is perfect for multiple-speaker events, where a lot of content needs to be covered quickly.

Experience the product

Why not let your products or services do the talking? Humans construct knowledge and meaning from experiences, meaning they are more likely to retain knowledge when they can apply what they’ve learned. If you’ve got a product, give your audience the opportunity to get hands-on. Consider demonstrating your service en masse, so your audience doesn’t just hear about it, but experiences using it. Allowing people to have a go helps ensure your message sticks.

Social VR

When we think of VR, we tend to think of a single person wearing goggles, immersed in an isolated experience. The technology separates the users from their surrounds and each other. But recent advances break down those barriers to combine multiple audiences in a virtual space, in real time. This means your guests could be literally anywhere in the world, but enjoying live interactions with each other, your presenters or your product.

These are just four examples of presenting content that avoids the predictable path of ‘death by PowerPoint’.

By taking an ‘inside out’ approach, and letting your message guide your media, you might end up in all sorts of interesting places that will keep your guests entertained, informed and engaged.


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Bim Ricketson GPJ Australia

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