Winging the non-presentation

Five days of sweating the big Powerpoint for the industry analysts. Step up to the podium plug in the projector cable, stick in the USB thingy for the wireless pointer, hit FN-F7 to pull up the presentation manager, output to projector and ….

Major lock up.  We’re talking Han Solo in Carbonite. Total freeze. I know, immediately, given squirrely nature of machine, that this powerpoint is not happening. So ….

I start the tapdance, remember Mister Gifford’s Fifth Form class on public speaking and my days on the debate team, and go totally extemporaneous.

No William Jennings Bryan, no Cross of Gold, I just stood in front of a dark screen in front of 50 analysts and colleagues and winged it.

It was fun. Better than talking through the slides, showing the graphs, the charts, the screen shots. I just yakked and had a nice conversation with the crowd. I won’t say it was my best presentation ever, and it sucked to burn so many psychic karma points obsessing over the slides …. there is some recycle potential and this fricking machine gets the Uncle Fester Wipe Out next week in Raleigh.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Winging the non-presentation”

  1. Freak Ouyt! Did the bow tie come flying off?

    I’m sure you were most excellent Dave. I”ve seen you do many off the cuff discussions that were light years better than any freaking PowerPoint presentation.

    But I can imagine you sweating bullets for a microsecond, Dude.

    Be well and I”m happy your back blogging. thanks for the link and the kind words.


  2. I felt my stomach tightening just reading this story. I bet it turned out great though.

    It’s funny, I was reading just yesterday one man’s opinion that PP slides were not only a thing of the past, a “relic”, but that they also were for amateurs. He actually was recommending pretty much what you were forced of necessity to do … only planning for it. But honestly, I did think a lot of people could pull that off without some visual aids.

    Glad it worked out well.

  3. I think we have developed a tendancy to rely too much upon slides. We make some neat slides, and often I use them to whiteboard my ideas when I don’t have a whiteboard handy – I kinda think in powerpoint.

    My whole career is on my hard disk – no real backups. Lots and lots of PPT files, and Freelance before that. For example, my last 18 months is in one folder – 223 files, 286 megs of charts.

    It is insideous. We have so many files and slides, all full of interesting ideas, demonstrations and facts. When we have the opportunity to talk to somebody, we instinctively draw from that aresenal.

    The trouble is, that doing so constrains what we are going to say from the start. We immediately skip over thinking about what we most want to get out of the engagement, or what we want the audience to come away with. We limit ourselves to mostly what we already know – and have charted.

    Perhaps David, it worked out for the best.

  4. Of course it was better. When was the last time you sat through a PPT that you actually enjoyed? You’re a story teller and you told your story. That’s what the audience wants. I was at some marketing conference last year and the only presentation I remember was by Jim Surwiki (SP) of the New Yorker. Great story. No PowerPoint. Power Point is the antithesis of communicating. See Ed Tufte’s great essay: I’ve been in meetings with you dude. You don’t need the slides.

  5. Unplugged = connected when it comes to Powerpoint vs interraction with a live audience. I try and use it as little as possible, and strategically where it is most effective when I do – kind of like cussing.

  6. Dave,

    You stumbled (how many great discoveries are made) upon a very pertinent fact about life in the Networked World. Scripting is out. Improvisation is in.

    The issue is not with PowerPoint, per se, but in how presenters use it as a crutch, a substitute for true communication, and let it become a barrier to communication rather than a conduit.

    Here are some of the essential and important differences between scripting (as in PowerPoint) and improvisation (as you did of necessity):

    Scripting is rigid. Improvisation is flexible. The rigid structures and scripted communication of the industrial age cannot withstand the fluid, free-flowing forces that characterize business in the networked world.

    Scripting is planning. Improvisation is preparation. Markets (which I describe as customer audiences) move too quickly, they are too fickle, for any kind of doctrinaire planning to be effective. Effectiveness in the networked world will be determined by how adaptive we can be, by how successfully we can deviate from the plan, not by how dogmatically we stick to it.

    Scripting is predictable and formulaic. Improvisation is spontaneous and unique. I frequently work with my clients on presentations, and when it comes to PowerPoint, one of the first things we do is throw out the slide that has an agenda on it. No good storyteller gives away his or her ending, and yet this is what happens time and time and time again in business presentations. Spontaneity, on the other hand, holds the audience’s interest, and allows for breakthroughs that could not otherwise occur.

    Scripting detracts from focus. Improvisation enhances it. When you cede your story to the screen, you lose the opportunity to keep the audience’s attention where it belongs. On you.

    Scripting is cosmetic. Improvisation is emotional. Emotion is at the heart of all meaningful human communication. What’s on the screen — in the form of words and images — is as likely to conceal what you mean as it is to reveal it.

    You can read about how an effective business communicator, Martin Gastanaga, used a projected presentation as a prop while holding the audience’s focus and keeping the communication emotional…at

    Congratulations on your breakthrough and for sharing the insights that came from it.

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