You never know when your career is really going to take off. I certainly didn't - I came from a family of engineers, so I grew up expecting to become an engineer, too. However, a chance encounter wound up completely changing my career path. I was working as a design engineer for a firm on Long Island. The job gave me the opportunity to meet and work with clients from Wall Street and Hollywood. We were developing a mansion in the Hamptons for one of those famous people when my career epiphany took place. I knew nothing about the client who had commissioned us to build the estate, and I only met him at a series of meetings where I represented my firm. But, without meaning to, that client totally altered the rest of my career. The client in question was Ron Perelman, a billionaire private equity investor and philanthropist. We met a number of times to discuss the house he wanted built, and after a few meetings I worked up the courage to ask him some questions about the deals his company (MacAndrews & Forbes) was doing. He was surprisingly warm and inviting; even though I was only a novice in the world of finance, he took the time to listen and respond to each of my questions in turn. Not only that, he challenged me to come back with even stronger questions - and I did. When Ron asked me what had sparked my interest in the markets, I told him that, because of my family's engineering background, I had never really considered pursuing a career in finance. But he pointed out that I had a skill set that would translate well to the corporate world - that I was bright, worked well with others and had a creative streak. While I didn't yet have the skills I would need to thrive on Wall Street, he said, I had all the basic tools necessary for a successful finance career. Our talk inspired me to think differently about the direction I wanted to take with my professional life. It also demonstrated to me the importance of being both curious and willing to ask disruptive questions, even when you think it's not your place to be a questioner. Usually, there are great people right in front of you whom you have to give yourself a chance to just talk to. Asking questions of those people can open up a galaxy of opportunities for you. But you have to be unafraid to speak up, and be open to the possibility that what you hear can completely reorient your life and your priorities. That's what happened when I met Ron Perelman, and it could happen to you, too. Want to learn more about Rich's career path (or have him help you secure YOUR dream job)? You can connect with Rich - and more than 200 other professionals in finance, consulting or the corporate world - through Blue Chip Career. Visit BlueChipCareer.com to get started - and enter the coupon code BCC at checkout to save $10 on your first purchase!Blue Chip Career is an online mentor network that levels the job search playing field by making top executives accessible. Through their platform, any job seeker can connect with an experienced mentor for personalized job search guidance.Question career direction image from Shutterstock
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PowerPoint – the “stirrups” of presentations
Some people say that stirrups took the skill out of horse riding. Stirrups made it too easy for riders to stay on their horses.
PowerPoint is thought to have done the same for presentations. By organizing your ideas, thoughts, and information in a series of slides, meetings start to look the same.
PowerPoint is so ubiquitous that a meeting is almost not a meeting without some slides. Is there another way to communicate, or are we all doomed to experience “death by PowerPoint”?
There Are Alternatives
PowerPoint was invented less than a hundred years ago. Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Martin Luther, and Einstein didn’t let their lack of PowerPoint stop them! Perhaps it’s worth looking at some alternatives.
“Live & unplugged”
If your message is straightforward and doesn’t involve too many facts and figures, why not just stand up and say it?
This was how Cicero, Demosthenes, and Churchill spoke most of the time.
To make it work, you will need to prepare your message carefully. It will force you to boil it down to the basics and concentrate on what really matters.
If you’re going to answer questions, you’ll need to know your subject well enough to be able to think on your feet. You may want to “red team” possible questions and prepare your answers to them. See “further reading” for more details!
If someone asks you to share your content electronically, you can either have a document ready with speaker’s notes or get someone to film your conversation and share the recording.
Flipcharts are an effective way to share “low-density” information visually.
They are also very useful for “co-creation,” where your presentation is more of a discussion and the output is something that you have created with your audience.
Paul Ardern, the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising legend, recommended making pitches for advertising campaign stories in this way. It allows customers to get involved in the creation process right from the start. It also demonstrates how willing you are to listen to your customers.
Sharing the results electronically is fairly easy. Simply take pictures of each completed page by phone and share them by email.
Many people present PowerPoint slides with densely written text and diagrams.
Data projectors display whatever is on the screen, so if you have already written a Word document and you know which pages you want to show, why duplicate effort by copying text onto a PowerPoint file?
If the document is a draft, it’s also possible to get peoples’ input and edit it on the fly.
It adds a touch of authenticity to the meeting. You are showing the actual document. It makes sharing the information easier and more credible since what your audience sees during the presentation is what they get.
If you’re presenting numbers, such as an ROI or a set of cost estimates or accounts, you could just show your audience the spreadsheet with the calculations on it.
The advantage of this is, once again, you can discuss with the customer how accurate your estimations are and then make adjustments on the fly. This involves the customer in the creative process which will build trust.
Some salespeople have been known to deliberately make estimated costs that might be saved, such as salaries, lower than they really are. They then let their customers correct their figures, and so the final ROI figure goes up, and it looks like the customer discovered this for themselves.
Make a video
You may expect your audience to passively consume your message, or to ask questions later.
Why not just make a video, share it electronically, and give your audience a deadline by which they must submit questions?
Video editing software is readily available and not too difficult to learn. You can use it to mix media of different formats including audio, written text, and moving images.
Once the video is complete, it’s not too difficult to share it electronically.
Do you need a presentation at all?
If you are planning to read what is on the PowerPoint to your audience and then follow up with a question-and-answer session, why not just send them the text to read before the meeting?
This will give your audience more time to “digest” the information and they can prepare questions independently without worrying about the social aspect of asking questions in front of the group.
Let’s get in touch!
Are you planning a presentation? Would you like to brainstorm alternative delivery methods? Let’s talk and see what we can put together!
Here are some more articles on the topic of presentations: