Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Making Presentations Effective

I've almost finished preparing for a high-profile fifteen-minute performance slash presentation for a major new client. I've had so much fun crafting this little event that I wanted to share my joy with you.

I am loving the opportunity to combine music with what you might call intellectual content. Have you seen many Hollywood movies that don't have a musical soundtrack? There's a good reason for that – music sets and amplifies mood very effectively. In an almost subversive way, it helps you suspend your disbelief so you can inhabit the dramatic world that is, after all, nothing but fiction.

Training involves fiction, too, if you think about it. Trainees have to suspend their disbelief long enough to receive what they are trying to learn. This is why the more dramatic styles of training are so powerful. Every trainer's job is to inspire your trust and help you see the relevance and compatibility of the new material with the life you're already living. I've found that music and other kinds of performance make that task easier. They also make the results more enduring.

As a songwriter and improvising musician, I love the creative process. Elevating the logic of a presentation to the level of compelling narrative is really fun. You can see I'm not talking about 60 slides of bullet points! I prepare presentations as if they were drama. They have logic, serving the same purpose as the plot of a novel, play, or movie. And yes, the logic must be sound. But it is only a skeleton on which the other dramatic elements (theme, character, spectacle, etc.) hang. And I love 'em all!

This brand of presentation delivers a highly engaging shared experience that really means something to the participants. Depth of meaning makes it more likely that learning will take root in one's day-to-day work lives. While I like to think my influence changes peoples' lives in some small way, I'm in no position to judge that. But I do know that the shared experience leaves them jazzed about their work, and jazzed that my sponsor (usually their employer) valued them enough to offer it to them.

Helping people enjoy their work is an integral part of creative leadership. People who truly enjoy what they're doing not only produce, but also inspire others to produce. In a receptive environment, their positive influence increases exponentially in a chain reaction! Can you imagine a workplace where everyone inspires everyone else most of the time? Wouldn't you like to be a part of that for forty hours every week? I try to give my clients a taste of that world, whether in presentations, workshops, or individual settings like consulting and coaching. My hope is that a little taste will whet their appetite.

It's been my experience that no matter what kind of work you do, you can be creative with it and feel inspired by it – if you can find and sustain the right perspective. Responsibility for the finding and the sustaining is partly yours. But because you're a member of a work community and you act in a work environment, responsibility is also partly not yours.

People outside of your influence have a lot to do with how creative you can be in your job and how inspired you can feel doing it. That's why, when it comes to change, a larger circle is more effective. In the ideal situation, staff, managers, and executives all take part in the same inspiring learning experiences. This is often called "drinking the Kool-Ade", and it's really where the action is. It can really be fun for the creative leader – you – because you get to mix!