Many people today talk about presentation technology as if it were a panacea for boring lectures and ineffective presentations. Technologies such as our laptops, iPads, and cool software packages are wonderful tools that can, when used well, increase the quality of communication and engagement. This is especially true when we need to engage with people live on the other side of the planet via tools like video conferencing, webinars, Skype, and so on. However, while technology has evolved in dramatic ways over the last generation, our deep human need for visceral connections, and personal engagement has not changed. When it comes to technology as it relates to communication, then, what is often needed today is not more, but less. That is, an intentional selection of less.
Regress to progress
Eiji Han Shimizu is a Japanese filmaker and creator of the award-winning film "Happy." In his 2011 TEDxTokyo presentation Shimizu underscored the idea that it is not always "more" that makes us happy, but rather the intentional selection of less, an aesthetic that is at the heart of traditional Japanese culture.
"A blind march toward progress that's based on distraction, temptation, and consumption may not bring happiness." — Eiji Han Shimizu
If we apply this sentiment to the modern age of presentation technology, it raises a question: are too many of us blindly marching to accept all that is shiny and new, in a spirit of what we may call "progress," proclaiming that the tools themselves increase engagement? Does this focus on the consumption of more and more ephemeral tools lead to a great distraction in many cases? Digital tools are an important part of our work. However, we must be very skeptical about claims of engagement—especially when they come from the very companies which make the tools. As more digital tools become available at a faster pace, it will be the intentional selection of less, the willingness to say no to more, and the thoughtful practice of restraint that leads to the clearest communication and best presentations. As we begin the new year, here are some questions to ponder for you (and your group).
Questions to consider
• How can you apply the "intentional selection of less" to your work?
• What elements or activities in your field serve more to distract than to engage?
• How can you remove the distractions?
• In what ways, in your field, is more actually less (and vice versa)?
• How can you increase clarity and impact by resisting the call to add more?
• Some questions that the simplicity of Zen can help address