Keeping Your Media Human

When you use projected visuals as a persuasive backdrop to your communication, they become much more than "visual aids" tacked on to your spoken words. They can summarize your point, frame your ideas, and influence mood and emotion.

Ppt_box_2But one downside of using media is that it can become too absorbing, and create a level of detachment that shuts down the human connection between presenters and audiences. 

In order to keep your person-to-person communication experiences more engaging, here are three things you can do to break the media formality:

  1. Black out the screen.  This is probably the simplest and most powerful technique – to simply hit the "B" key and turn the screen to black. The image-filled screen creates such a powerful presence, that its sudden absence focuses attention intently on you. Use this when you want to emphasize the most important points in your storyboard. In the Beyond Bullet Points method, you would black out the screen during each of the storyboard frames that correspond with the 5-minute column in the story template.
  2. Write on the screen using a Tablet PC. I’m not someone who gets excited about new gadgets, but I’ve had the IBM ThinkPad X41 for a few months now, and it’s become a powerful new addition to my toolkit to help me engage my own audiences. Whenever I begin a workshop, I show this slide (Download humanize.ppt)  that features a PowerPoint box.  When I present it, I ask the audience, "When I say the word PowerPoint, what words come to your mind?"  As I call on audience members for their responses, I repeat what they said, and then write their response directly on the screen with the stylus that comes with the Tablet PC. This makes a powerful statement that this is going to be engaging, I am going to listen to you, and we are going to create this experience together.
  3. Use hand-sketched graphics. Especially these days when the graphical trend is toward 3-D, gradients and hyper-stylized backgrounds, adding hand-sketched graphics is an effective way to make your presentation style more human and down-to-earth. If you have a Tablet PC then you can sketch your graphics directly on the PowerPoint slide with a stylus; otherwise you can sketch on paper then scan the images and add them to the slides.  If you’re more of a scribbler than a sketcher, ask one of your colleagues to lend their sketching talents to your slides.

Try one of these techniques the next time you present, to break the media barriers and make sure you keep your presentations appropriately sociable.

This entry was posted in Business Strategy, Communications, Media, PowerPoint, Presentations, Trial Presentations, Web/Tech, Weblogs. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to “Keeping Your Media Human”

  1. Thomas says:

    You can also use a digital pen, like the Nokia Digital Pen (see,8764,18673,00.html) to scribble on paper and then import your drawings via USB to your PC.

  2. Mike says:

    I’m a teacher, so I use PowerPoint to teach, rather than present. We try to build interaction into all our lessons. We use electronic whiteboards, or EM Panels, for making notes from students’ suggestions in just the way you describe.

    I’ve been trying to encourage our teaching staff to use ‘bullet free’ PowerPoints, but still often see slides full of text and bullets being used. I’ve asked out library to order a couple of copies of the book so I can try some more.

  3. Marco Bakera says:

    As I like to draw especially math things with a wacom graph tablet i like this approach very much.

    If you are even good at drawing some little figures all your slides get this little touch of you. Great idea! Thanks for that.

  4. QuickOffice for the Palm allows you to annotate your slides directly on your Palm screen. If you’re presenting using a Pitch Presentation device (like I use), you can draw right onto the Palm screen and have it show up on the projector. You can later delete the annotations without affecting your Original presentation.

  5. On the hand-sketched graphics: Have you ever seen any of Raph Koster’s presentations or read his book (A Theory of Fun)? His presentations are almost entirely hand-drawn cartoons, and his book mixes cartoons & text (every second page is a full page cartoon). They are great presentations and a good look at a unique style. You can see a couple here:

    The latter is interesting because it had to work for a Korean audience as well.

  6. And for the people that just conclude “sorry, I can’t draw”. Here is an example of an engeneer that can’t draw (me) that still manages to get huge amounts of interest and hits on a childish cartoon:

    The cartoon was originally made for my presentations and have been used in countless of them ever since.

  7. Mike Lougee says:

    Does anyone have ideas about interesting typefaces that have a “hand-drawn look” which mimics handwriting (printing or cursive, probably prefer printing), for those of us whose handwriting isn’t “attractive?”

    “Hand-drawn” clip art might be useful too.

  8. graham davies says:

    Interesting ideas, but flawed. A presenter who sketches slides as he goes along does not look engaging. He looks unprepared and amateurish.

    Time spent looking down at the tablet scribling is time that should be spent engaging the audience with eye contact.

  9. cliff says:

    Thanks for the comments and links! Graham, you may find this previous post interesting, describing Henry Boettinger’s experience with a “razzle dazzle” versus an “unpolished” presentation:

  10. Michael from UK says:

    Readers might be interested in a new low budget graphics tablet, the Acecad Acetat Flair. £40 in UK, so about $70.
    Reviewed here:

  11. Mike (Lougee) missed a point, I think.

    I didn’t read the original post as suggesting you should write all your slides as you went along – just that you could add to them/annotate them/etc as you went along, creating an ADDITIONAL layer to the presentation… interaction and informality.

    On our training courses ( we use OpenOffice because it allows us to do that at a basic level, for free!

    Cheers…. Simon

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