I recently saw a PowerPoint slide like this one, which began a presentation by a very senior executive at a very large organization. The motorcycle actually "drove" into the slide from left to right as the executive began talking about the "driving forces of change" and the "high octane performance" of his organization.
What was a slide like this doing in a bullet point board room? And is it a PowerPoint slide at all? Yes, in fact, this is a PowerPoint slide, and it symbolizes the sweeping change that will soon be motoring through meeting rooms everywhere.
This simple slide demonstrates how our current criteria for evaluating PowerPoint slides is simply too narrow. If you saw this slide outside of its presentation context, you wouldn’t think there was very much there because it has no bullet points, diagrams or charts. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable showing something that contains so little. But the real action that happened around this slide took place not on screen, but between the presenter and the audience. That’s because the slide drew from evocative power.
It turns out the presenter is passionate about motorcycles, and selected an image that sparked his enthusiasm. He chose to use the image as a motif, or recurring theme, relating the topic of motorcycles to the company’s strategic issues such as "driving change." What happened during the talk was that displaying the image made him feel comfortable with standing in front of a group. As he unlocked his passion for motorcycles, he related it to the passion he has for corporate strategy. And because he was enthusiastic, enlivened, and confident, the audience quickly became engaged in the topic too.
Why is this important? Personally, I’m not passionate about motorcycles. But I am passionate about people who are passionate. A classic book of the 1970s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance told the story of a guy riding a motorcycle. By the end of the story, you realize it never was about the motorcycle after all, but the rider’s attitude toward life. Will there come a day when our presentations are not about bullet points, but our attitude toward our audiences, and ourselves? The day that happens, we will all be on a high-octane journey toward positive change.
Tip: Meditate on your personal passions. What gets you excited? A hobby, a sport, or a special place? Find a picture of it, and put it on a slide. Weave it through your story as a motif if it helps clarify your message. Now present us a story that will take us on a meaningful journey together.