Imagine attending a business meeting where one of your colleagues is about to give a PowerPoint presentation. Perhaps it’s one of many slide shows that you’ll have to endure that day. You prepare yourself for a long, tiring, boring data dump, one after the other after the other. You know, the usual corporate stuff.
Then to your surprise, your colleague stands before the group holding a large, colorful hula hoop. You haven’t seen one of those in years. You wonder what the heck she’s going to do with it. Secretly you hope she gives it a whirl…and then maybe invites you and a few others to have a go with the hula hoop. Wouldn’t that be fun?
You are not dreaming. This actually happened. Corrine Andrade, a senior HR business partner for a leading regional banking institution in the Northeast Region of the USA, gave just such a presentation. In a two-day presentation skills class called The Motivated Presenter, I challenged Corrine and the other executives taking this mastery class to find more creative ways to bring their message to life. We were studying the impact of storytelling and the use of props in a presentation as ways to be more engaging, inspiring, and memorable during a presentation. Corrine hit it out of the park.
Here’s how she used the hula hoop
Rather than the typical boring start to a presentation, Corrine took the floor with this unusual item. She stood silent for a few seconds before beginning. Those few seconds of silence combined to emphasize the colorful prop in her hand. Her black and tan outfit and her power stance were the perfect backdrop – helping the prop to pop out and her audience to lean in with anticipation.
Corrine’s presentation was focused on eradicating stereotypes around Millennial employees. She began telling a story of working for an advertising agency earlier in her career. On several occasions, Corrine noticed a young woman of the millennial generation at the end of a hallway twirling the hula hoop on what must have been an unconventional “coffee break.” She remembered thinking it an odd behavior, but chalked it up as “different strokes for different folks.”
She continued to see this young woman, at various times throughout the work week, doing the hula hoop thing. Corrine began to wonder why the company was paying her to “fool around” so much. What kind of work ethic and values did this young woman have? Soon Corrine began to generalize her feelings for this young woman and to project them onto the entire millennial generation. She began to judge millennials thinking all they did was play all day versus work hard like “the rest of us.”
Corrine later learned that this young professional was in fact a strong contributor at the agency. Corrine came to understand that hula hooping was the colleague’s way of de-stressing and generating ideas – all part of her creative process. Corrine had gotten it all wrong. She misunderstood the motivations and values behind the activity. This led her to re-examine her thoughts, beliefs, and understanding of the millennial generation.
At this moment, Corrine pivoted to build a powerful bridge between this personal story and the core topic of her presentation: a new study just released about millennial values and workplace needs. The audience was not only listening, but moved by her key message. Through her personal story and clever prop, Corrine had transformed the thoughts and beliefs of her colleagues. She had lived up to her personal brand and demonstrated how to “increase competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people and culture.” Through her creative, high-engagement presentation, she had opened the door to create an even better workplace at her organization. That’s the power of an effective non-boring presentation.
What can you do to be more engaging in your presentations?
The next time you are preparing for a presentation, I want you to think of Corrine and how she used creativity and connection to bring her message to life and move her audience to action. Boring is a choice, and one that I encourage you NOT to select.
I tell my clients that, as leaders, they don’t have to tolerate boring presentations, not from others and not from themselves. There are better ways to communicate, inform, inspire, motivate, and connect than the standard bullet-point laden boring PowerPoint presentation that puts your audience to sleep.
If you need help, give me a call at +1 (860) 371-8801. As your executive presentation coach and trainer, I can work with you and your team to plan, build, and deliver more engaging presentations that motivate people to action. You can also buy and read my book, Stop Global Boring.