If you want to bring something together, sometimes you have to split it into two.
The best way to quickly focus attention in any environment is to set up your core story as a conflict between two opposing forces, and to resolve the differences between the two with your narrative. Novelists do it, screenwriters do it, artists do it, and so should you. But with PowerPoint, you can do it not only with your ideas, but also with your projector(s).
Let’s say you’re getting ready for a very important company meeting, where you need to make it crystal clear that you’re going through a difficult quarter. Everyone in the company, no matter what their role, needs to pitch in and dedicate their energies toward the single focus of improving your numbers.
In the rosiest of scenarios, your company’s finances can be a complicated tangle of ideas. But you can make the situation come together by splitting it up into two pieces. Here’s how:
There’s no PowerPoint law that puts a limit on the number of projectors you can use in a room, so feel free to stretch your thinking as far as it proves effective. In that light, why use only one projector, when two will do? Set up two screens on opposite ends of your conference table. On one screen, project the simple word “profit” on a PowerPoint slide, and on the other screen, use another computer and projector to project a PowerPoint slide with the simple word “loss”. When people enter the room for your meeting, you can say something like this:
“Today we stand at a crossroads for our company. You all know we’ve been struggling to stay afloat in this rough economy, but this quarter has been tougher than we thought it would be. We projected we would make a profit (gesture to the “profit” screen), but instead we face a loss (gesture to the “loss” screen). What happened was not what we expected. We’re here today to figure out how we can move from our current state of loss, toward our future state of profit within the next 6 weeks. Let’s discuss our options…”
When you project the two simple words on the two screens, it creates a context of strategic tension for your meeting. Each wall frames the conflict between loss and profit, and the resolution sits between the walls, in the form of the people who are there. People will make the difference between profit and loss, and their ideas and actions are waiting to be brought out by the right questions and the right process. If you leave the two slides up the whole time, you are creatively using media to focus the dialogue on solving the problem at hand.
Can some visual tension set the strategic stage for your next meeting?
Tip: Try out the split screen technique yourself. Most companies have more than one projector and screen, so bring a second set into a conference room. Set up the two screens so they’re at opposite sides of the room, and point a projector at each. To keep things simple, connect a separate laptop to each projector, and on one computer, create a simple white PowerPoint slide, and add a centered text box with the word “profit”. Do the same on the other laptop, typing the word “loss” on the slide. Or, instead of profit/loss, try two other contrasting states, like insecurity/security, complexity/simplicity, risk/security. Now fire up your projectors and facilitate your meeting as described above. Were you able to focus attention and come to a clear conclusion? If you were, you’re starting to see the singular benefits of double vision.
If splitting screens sounds like something trippy, it’s because we’ve been there before, and we’re going there again. Flip through a copy of Gene Youngblood’s 1970 book Expanded Cinema to see examples of “multiple-projection intermedia environments”. Then check out a more recent copy of the 2003 book Future Cinema to see possibilities for a more sociable future of PowerPoint and projected media. These concepts are not new, but it is news to most of us that we can create some sophisticated media experiences ourselves with a fluffy little tool called PowerPoint. That may sound like splitting hairs, but it doesn’t really matter as long as we start splitting screens and bringing meaning, and people, together.