7 Tips for Creative Presentations that Go Beyond PowerPoint

2 fortune cookies, with fortunes

At The Market Research Event in Orlando today, Lisa Courtade and Ben Gilgoff of Merck didn’t just discuss how to improve the quality of presentations: they showed it in action. [Lisa is the immediate past president of the MRII and at the show won the NGMR Most Innovative Research Method award.]

Ben kicked off by parodying some of Chris Anderson’s 10 Ways to Ruin a Presentation:

  1. Take a really long time to explain what your talk is about.
  2. Speak slowly and dramatically. Why talk when you can orate?
  3. Make sure you subtly let everyone know how important you are.
  4. Refer to your book repeatedly. Even better, quote yourself from it.
  5. Cram your slides with numerous text bullet points and multiple fonts.
  6. Use lots of unexplained technical jargon to make yourself sound smart.
  7. Speak at great length about the history of your organization and its glorious achievements.
  8. Don’t bother rehearsing to check how long your talk is running.
  9. Sound as if you’re reciting your talk from memory.
  10. Never, ever make eye contact with anyone in the audience.

Lisa interrupted his skit to get him back on track. Ben said, “Good presentations are important for so many reasons. When we give a bad presentation, we don’t understand the full sunk cost. We want our organizations to take action, to maximize the assets that we have been given, whether it is packaging, a magazine ad, or a TV commercial. You can’t move your team unless you make your insights stick. PowerPoint alone won’t do it.”

Some of the methods Lisa and Ben discussed or exemplified included:

  1. Playing music prior to the presentation. The songs were actually suggested by allergy sufferers in a survey. “We pressed a CD, ‘Allergy’s Greatest Hits’,” Ben said, “which is not available in stores!” The CD was well received and contained songs like Pink’s “Just Like a Pill” and The Ramones “I Want to Be Sedated.” “People got into the insights. In fact, I was surprised at how it resonated. We distributed it pretty widely: we even had executives listen to it! It was a really great way to distribute these types of insights, which were very genuine, without a formal presentation.”
  2. Doing a skit.
  3. Sharing custom fortune cookies, each of which had one of 12 different insights in place of the traditional fortune. Lisa said a team member had used this technique to liven up a dry ATU (“about the most boring type of research – sorry!”). It engaged people with the latest wave of the tracking study.
  4. Gamify the insights. Lisa said, “Gamification works in survey design and in communicating insights. We’ve observed that many of our commercial colleagues, and fellow researchers, are very competitive.” The Merck research team organized a “Family Feud” style contest, with marketers and researchers divided into teams.
  5. Posters, maps, and wall art have their place. “Old School can be cool,” Lisa said. Ben added that these methods “can be unexpected and surprisingly effective in a world gone digital.” The act of hanging up a poster on a wall generates conservations and helps people engage with the insights.
  6. One Merck researcher had meeting attendees make a “Mad Libs” style list of words (e.g., adjective, adverb, noun), then revealed an insights summary to insert those words into. “It got people to think a little more creatively.”
  7. Since most people retain only 10% of what they read, but 95% of what they see in a video, make judicious use of video. Lisa said, “I remember someone presented a deck with 20 different videos – I was done after the fifth one.”

Here’s the video Lisa shared:

Lisa concluded by saying, “Think outside the PowerPoint slide. Find alternative insight delivery platforms. Don’t mix up a whole bunch like we just did, but pick one! It may be a little scary but it is worth experimenting. It will make people feel more like they are participating.”

Jeffrey Henning, PRC volunteers as the president-elect of the MRII, when he’s not running research for Researchscape International. His fortune said, “Don’t read the text on slides to your audience…in bed.”

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