When I was an employee with Sumitomo in the mid-90s, I discovered that Japanese business people often used the term "case-by-case" when discussing details of future events or strategy. This used to frustrate me since I was used to more concrete plans and absolutes and making decisions rather quickly. I learned, though, that context, circumstance, and a kind of "particularism" was very important to the Japanese I worked with.
Today, I might use Japanese expressions like jyou kyou ni yotte (judgment depends on circumstance) or tokito baaini totte tsukaiwareru (use depends on time and circumstance) when discussing what techniques or equipment to use for a particular presentation. I used to think that "it depends" was a weak statement, a copout of sorts. Now I see that it's smart. Because...it really does "all depend" on the unique context and circumstance found in each situation.
What tools or techniques you use to make your presentation depends on a great many things, of course. Often the best "PowerPoint presentation" is the one you never give. Slides and projectors/displays are good tools for many kinds of presentations, but by no means are they appropriate for all situations. Often it is more appropriate (and refreshing) to go completely "analog."
Last week I attended a good example of an "analog" presentation. My friend, Ricco Deblank, General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Osaka — the most preferred hotel employer in Japan — invited my HRM class into the hotel for a short seminar and a behind-the-scenes look at the Ritz-Carlton brand and a peak at what makes it so special. There were about twenty-five in our group. Ricco is a very engaging figure and passionately believes in his message. For this particular situation, I think slides could have taken away from the message. The only visuals used (besides the Ritz-Carlton Hotel itself) were a flipchart/pens and the Ritz-Carlton Credo. The Credo, a small card which every employee carries with them, contains 20 important principles that are the heart and soul of the Ritz-Carlton promise. Each audience member received the credo and could refer to it as Ricco called attention to particular sections of the card. The Credo also served as a great takeaway.
Above: Ricco Deblank, Ritz-Carlton GM, goes "low-tech" and gives an impassioned presentation on why it's the employees that make the Ritz so special.
Above: Ritz-Carlton executives and front-line managers demonstrate the "line up" and act out a few scenarios.
Present "digital" and plan "analog"?
So sometimes (often times?) presenting without the aid of slideware is appropriate and desirable. But what about planning a presentation that will be delivered with the aid of slideware? Even if you are going to make an important presentation with the aid of slideware, I still think it is important to "go analog" in the early stages. I am not a big fan of planning a presentation on the computer. We are so glued to these machines (Macs and PCs) and the software (Office, Keynote, S5, etc.) that I often wonder if Tufte is right — maybe there is a "Cognitive style" to the software itself that that affects even our best intentions and brightest ideas.
Peter Drucker:"The computer is a moron"
The planning stage should be the time when our minds are clearest and all barriers removed. I love technology, and I think slideware can be very effective in many situations. But for planning, I say "go analog" — paper and pen, white boards, a note pad in your pocket as you take a walk down the beach with your dog...whatever works for you. Peter Drucker said it best: "The computer is a moron." You and your ideas (and your audience) are all that matter. So try getting away from the computer in the early stages, the time when your creativity is needed most. For me at least, clarity of thinking and a generation of ideas come when my computer and I are far apart. Walks on the beach are my greatest source of inspiration and clarity.
Would love to hear your examples of "going analog" for the presentation or in the planning stages (or both).