As It Turns Out, You Can Teach an Old (And By That I Mean Seasoned) Presenter New Tricks

Here’s a challenge for you: Can you do a presentation about your company’s culture? My guess is that 99 percent of you immediately said to yourselves, “Of course I can – what kind of challenge is that?”

Okay. Let me make it a little tougher for you. Can you do a presentation about your company’s culture in five minutes? Exactly five minutes?

While you’re considering that, let me add another twist: You have five minutes and 20 slides. Not a maximum of 20 slides or a minimum of 20 slides – you have exactly five minutes and exactly 20 slides.

Oh. And did I mention you have no control over the pace of the slides? None. They change every 15 seconds, whether you’re ready for them to change or not.

It’s a little like a “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” presentation. Talk too fast, and the slide will hang there and you have nothing to say. Awkward. Talk too slow, and the slides wait for no one. Unnerving. Time it just right, and everything flows seamlessly.

Of all the presentations I’ve made over my career, none have required the discipline of the format used by DisruptHR in their round-robin of presentations designed to “energize, inform, and empower people in the HR field.”

Inspired by the format pioneered by Ignite Talks, it’s intended to give the audience multiple points of view in a confined amount of time. And to make presentations fun – or, as Ignite Talks puts it on their website, “showing that presentations don’t need to be about death by PowerPoint.”

What I love about the format is the purpose behind it. Ignite’s mission is “Everyone Speaks.” They believe public speaking builds confidence in individuals and that events like Ignite Talks build community: “Our goal is to make it possible for anyone, anywhere, to learn to present their ideas and their stories.”

The topic I was assigned for the DisruptHR event was, admittedly, an easy one. We have a unique and strong culture that makes for a good story. The format was the hard part. But the experience was invaluable.

So go ahead. Try it. Pick a topic you care about. Write your script. Pick your visuals. Set the timer on your format of choice – both PowerPoint and Keynote have that feature – and see how it goes.

It won’t go well at first. But with a lot of editing and re-editing, rehearsing and more rehearsing, I think you’ll find that it’s actually fun. And it will make every presentation you give after that more polished, more concise, and more interesting.

Isn’t that the goal we should all have every time it’s our turn to take the floor?

Watch Diane’s DisruptHR presentation.

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