30 November 2005

It's time to move away from presentation mode

Presentations need an overhaul. I don't mean your PowerPoint or your presentation style; I mean our cultural approach to presenting. We need to take another look at it.

Question: What is the purpose of the presentation?

The overt purpose is to educate and inform

The covert purpose is to reinforce the status of the expert and remind the audience that they are not competent to solve their own problems.

I submit that in the information age the traditional presentation model needs to change from

presenter>audience to


Ideas don't evolve in a vaccuum and they don't generally flow in one direction.

Our current paradigm is based on a preacher model. An authority figure stands at the front of the room and lectures the class for forty minutes and then takes questions from the audience. Presentation styles vary but more or less they all follow this model.

Nearly every one of XPLANE's customers already has the expertise they need to solve their problems. They don't need more experts in the traditional sense -- they need people who can help them find, develop and share the best practices and experts within their own organizations. They don't need more wizards and consultants; they need to improve their communication flows.

We need fewer presentations and more conversations.

We need to develop new approaches that allow the group to take on a greater role in the knowledge-sharing experience. Approaches that turn the traditional presenter into the host of a knowledge-sharing event, rather than an expert spouting wisdom.

At XPLANE, we are working on some experiments in conversation, in an attempt to flesh out some new mechanisms for unleashing the knowledge and creativity of groups. We have already identified some interesting patterns and structures that have lead to powerful results. If your organization would like to host one, please let me know and we can try to design one together.

Please share your thoughts.

Keep in touch! Sign up to get updates and occasional emails from me.


John Wagner said...


The last time I gave a presentation, I went up front without any notes, no agenda, no PowerPoint.

I let the audience drive the direction and flow via questions. So rather than me spouting off for 50 minutes and giving 10 minutes for Q&A, the entire session was a Q&A and we were able to involve a number of people in the discussion.

It worked much like you described in that I was merely a facilitator rather than a lecturer.

I thought it was excellent and the participants all gave the hour high marks, as well.

But it takes guts to do that ...

Unknown said...

It does take guts John! I am working my way up to that :)

Mel said...

I agree. I'm a TA, and what I've found is that my students already know the answers to their questions - the trick is helping them realize that they already know it. When you stand up and them the solution, they get either defensive or confused, and no learning actually occurs, plus the solution given might not be the solution wanted. When it's "their solution," they're proud of it, they understand it, and it definitely works for them since they made it.

Reminds me of a passage from the Tao Te Ching. "[The best ruler] completes his tasks, finishes his affairs, yet the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'" Leading without leading is a very hard thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I came accross the term "dash 20 portable air cleaners" the other day and I did not know what it was. When I search for it I found your site. Thought you might find that interesting :)