The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work

Redefine Corporate Presentations

Take The Stage

I describe management as arts, crafts and science. It is a practice that draws on arts, craft and science and there is a lot of craft – meaning experience – there is a certain amount of craft meaning insight, creativity and vision, and there is the use of science, technique or analysis. – Henry Mintzberg


The Gist

Let’s face it: Presentations can get real boring and we’re all guilty of nodding off in between a particularly dull one. Conventional year-end presentations, where the presenter endlessly drones on about abstract numbers and facts, will no longer hold water because the increasingly Millennial workforce doesn’t find them very appealing or motivating. Besides, a presentation overloaded with numbers and unpackaged data isn’t the thing people will be talking about at the end of the day, leave alone a few days later.

So, what gives? It’s tough being on stage, talking to a group of people who look bored even before you’ve uttered a word. They’ve mentally switched off even before you’ve had the chance to project the presentation you worked so hard upon. The truth is, they’ve already written off the presentation as well as the presenter, which makes the entire exercise a big waste of time.

The idea is to grab eyeballs with something completely unexpected: Imagine the surprise of the audience when a presenter suddenly breaks into song and dance or enters the stage in a costume. This isn’t to take away from the seriousness of traditional presentations – instead, it’s an attempt to alter the perspective of the audience and to give the hard work that’s been done a real shot at being memorable. For, when people remember what you’ve said and done so far, new doors are more likely to open up.


What

Packaging presentations in fun, creative ways that also encourage people to break out of stereotypes.


Why

Presentations and the information being shared are most useful when people in the audience actually pay attention and find enough takeaways. When facts are presented in the form of stories, the chances of people remembering them are far greater. Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate because it inspires people; it gets them involved; and thereby pushes them to act in transformative ways.


How

Be A Drama Queen: When you make drama a part of your presentations, they can drastically improve the attention span of your audience. Numbers and facts needn’t always be part of a monologue. Consider presenting your results in the form of a play; through the actions of a mime-act; or, maybe even a puppet show. Although people might pay more attention to the antics being performed onstage, there’s good reason to believe that what they see will remain with them far longer than a conventional powerpoint presentation will.

Let There Be Music: It’s a proven fact that the use of music to present information can actually sustain attention and, even better, store the content in the long-term memories of our brains. People could fit their speech into the rhythms of a popular song or compose one of their own; someone could have live music accompany their presentation in the background; or they could create a jingle to make announcements or introduce new sections of their presentation. There’s a reason why movies are accompanied by background scores: Music can set the mood and enrapture audiences when done right.

Go Visual Over Verbal: It’s a cliche, but it really is true: A picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, it’s the basic tenet of data analytics, which presents large troves of information in immediately understood visuals. When people use visual metaphors to make a point; when they convey results and findings via photographs or comic strips; or, when they use an amateur film to describe a complex concept, the recall of information in the minds of the audience is far superior. Our brains are usually partial to visuals, which encourage our brain to not just ingest information faster, but also make unintended connections that can boost creativity and innovation.

When (NOT) to use it?

The above ideas clearly require more time, preparation and most probably team effort. So, consider organizing such presentations for the more momentous occasions – like year-end presentations; presentations for the benefit of important stakeholders; or, those aimed at securing further funding. They may not be a great idea for your weekly meetings – but feel free to prove us wrong!


Level to implement

  Medium


DO’S

Make a video recording of all the presentations

Encourage people/ teams onstage

Allow family members of employees to be in the audience

DON’TS

Pick favourites

Be judgemental or discourage a performer/ presenter

Lose sight of what’s really important

Pros

Boosts team spirit and morale

Increases interest in presentations

Gives employees a chance to break stereotypes

Cons

Need to invest more time and effort

Not everybody is comfortable with performing onstage

Outsiders might not understand the need for all the “drama”


CASE

Redefine Corporate Presentations: Break The Ice

When you hear that someone attended a year-end meeting at the bank they worked for, the mental image that probably popped into your head was this:

A boardroom full of serious-looking men and women, wearing sober colored suits and listening (or, at least trying to listen) to a presenter who was spewing out more numbers than words.

Now, consider this image:

The setting is still a bank and there are still serious plans and numbers being presented by the people who work there. However, the presentations are in the form of plays, dances and songs; a few presenters are wearing suits that mimicked nakedness to portray transparency; and the CEO is wearing a suit inspired by a cartoon character while delivering a speech that made everybody think and laugh in equal parts.

Well, that was the kind of year-end presentations we had for a while at the bank I used to work for. But this bank wasn’t always this fun to begin with: It was on the brink of bankruptcy but was saved by a CEO who decided to place his people at the center of all his management efforts.

This year end presentation that I’ve described above took place in the second and the third years after the bank turned around. The play-acting, dancing and singing might sound like it was just a gala evening masquerading as a serious year-end event. However, some very important messages were hidden between the lines of those informal presentations.

For instance, the men who turned up in those “naked” suits surprised all their coworkers because everybody had labelled them as serious people. But, here they were showing everyone that they could be equally fun too. Their message was that they had nothing to hide and that everybody should feel like it’s okay to approach them at work. In short, they’d finally shed the public perception that they couldn’t shake off until then.

The point of these unconventional presentations was to break the ice between employees and management; to create the opportunity for people to make fun of themselves and reveal their friendly sides; and finally, to show employees that in this organization, we liked to work hard but we also liked to laugh and play in the midst of all that serious business.


Changemaker

Expert avatar

Van Noort, Karin

Semco Style Consultant – I help organizations to reach high results, happy & innovative employees and satisfied customers.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Dutch, English

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