From one Extreme to another

December 8th, 2008 by Rob Hale Leave a reply »

Last week I blogged about preparing a presentation using the Exteme Presentation Method. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the method was going to work beforehand but having spent the money on Dr Abela’s book, I pressed on.

This morning I delivered my first non-PowerPoint presentation in ages to a room of senior executives, and I did it sitting down talking to a single sheet of A4 paper.

Informal feedback gathered at the end of the session was really positive and I certainly felt the approach was both different and much more engaging. I noticed that I pretty much held the attention of all those in the room for 30 minutes, there were a flurry of questions at the end and conversation continued over coffee. None of these latter points is typical for me and I put the change down to the method.

Abela’s book is very practical and allowed me to develop the presentation step by step on and off over the course of about 4 days without going near a computer screen. If I have to constructively criticise it, I found the approach a little hard going and quite time-consuming to start with although I recognise that will improve with time and that if the end result is successful this justifies the up-front time investment.

On a personal note, I found the exercise of creating a compelling story cycling through ‘SCoRE’ (situation, complication, resolution, example) was both challenging and helpful in settling my mind on what had and had not been achieved, why this was so and what we had done to move on from that point.

The book is heavily referenced and researched and where I found myself mentally challenging some of the assertions I found (in each case) a thoughtfully provided reference to supporting material.

If you are fed up with giving PowerPoint presentations but feel you have little alternative then give this a go, especially if you have one of those important presentation opportunities on the horizon, and please let me know how you get on.

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5 comments

  1. ptobin2 says:

    I will have to come out in defence of PowerPoint here, Rob. I love the application, warts and all, and have been using it for many years. I think it is by far the best of Microsoft’s applications, and can be used for all sorts of things. In my opinion, the problem with PowerPoint is not the application, but the way we use it. When seen in the university context, it is obvioius that many people are very new to it, and don’t know how to use it. The result is that you get endless slides with endless black and white text on them, and at best, automated in the most pedestrian way (e.g. text sliding in slowly from left to right) because most people have no idea how to use the product.
    Reading your blog on the subject worried me, although I was impressed with your ‘extreme’ presentation without slides. Interestingly, though, it reminded me of how academics ‘present’ to each other all the time, or at least how they have traditionally – i.e. ‘talking’ to text on a piece of paper. When I arrived here from the corporate world, I was very surprised to see people still doing this. My immediate reaction was “guys, where are the pictures??”.
    This is indeed the strength of PP in my view: a picture painting a thousand words. How many times are you in a meeting when someone jumps up to a white board and starts drawing to describe what they mean? Everyone is immediately fixated upon the drawing (especially if it is a good one) and the conversation often centres around this from then on. In this manner, I have always seen PowerPoint as an extension of the white board: i.e. I try and use it to describe something in the manner I would want to draw it on a white board (if I could draw!).

    So, confronted by your seemingly compelling arguments and immediately anxious that I might have to depart from something that I’ve grown even more in love with not less, as time has progressed and newer versions of my beloved PP have emerged, I dared to explore your link to Abela’s ‘extreme’ presentation method, only to find that he wasn’t eschewing use of PP at all! In fact, step 8 of his design method is ‘slide layout’, with all sorts of tips on how to get your message across the best way using cool slides. I’ve even downloaded his suggested layouts – updated for PowerPoint’s fantastic new SmartArt designs – so that I can use them in future presentations. I note that many of them are also already in the latest version of PP anyway!

    So, I can breath a sigh of relief. Extreme presenting is not about doing away with PP, it turns out that it is just a suggested way of planning your presentation so that you get your message across the best way using slides. I think the method makes a lot of sense – and thanks for introducing me to it. It won’t change my approach to PowerPoint other than to waste less time preparing my presentation (e.g. don’t start working with your slides until step 8).

    Thanks for the intro to ‘extreme’, it is a great approach, but otherwise confirms for me that PowerPoint is great – but that you must use it properly, i.e. more pictures and less text!

  2. rhale says:

    Thanks for your comment Patrick, lots of good points and I think I must accept responsibility for leading you (and probably others) astray. You are right in that Abela doesn’t suggest doing away with PowerPoint and he highlights the misuse of it as an issue as you correctly point out. However… he does provide an important distinction between Ballrooom presentations and Boardroom presentations which is significant in my view. The latter is what I do during my typical work week – presenting to an audience of 10 or so – the former is what I do at a conference or forum in a hotel ballroom where flashy 24point slides and compelling graphics are the norm where the purpose is to impress and entertain v’s inform and perhaps discuss.
    I think my take-away is that there is nothing wrong with sitting round the table discussing a well-designed ‘presentation’ – ie the word itself does not imply that one should be standing and talking to a projected image.

  3. Alessandra says:

    It would be interesting to see a screen shot of your “one page”.

  4. I agree with the above comment. From one who also delivers and is audience to a number of ppt presentations I concur that there are many people who have firstly no idea how to structure an argument or concept for presentation, and secondly, how to add impact to the various points using any type of media.

    PPT is a powerful tool when used correctly. I also rather like the ZEN approach for appropriate subjects – it uses more power of suggestion than direct information back up.

    Thanks for your post – I have enjoyed investigating the method more.

    Gail

  5. rhale says:

    Thanks for your comment Gail, I’m glad you found the method of interest. Check out Andrew Abela’s site for updates, particularly his blog where you will find some really interesting recent content on data visualisation – http://extremepresentation.typepad.com/blog/