The classic midlife crisis was always associated with success: the sports car, the fancy clothes, the inappropriate girlfriend, but not anymore. That’s so Mad Men. Today’s midlife crisis involves getting laid off at age 46 and having your well-meaning friends suggest that you get a pink Lyft moustache for your aging, still-not-paid-off car as a way to earn gas money. Related:Career Transition For Middle-Aged Professionals Why does the Don Draper midlife crisis seem so ironic and dated? It appears laughable today because American midlife and mid-career have changed so radically in the last few years that it’s darkly amusing to think of what might have been for us. I’m not endorsing inappropriate behavior. I’m just pointing out that, until perhaps ten years ago, the achievable ideal of midlife and mid-career for most educated Americans was one of privilege, success, and affluence. If you wanted it and worked hard for it, you got it. You got the job, the salary, the benefits, the long-term employment commitment, all of the goodies. Not today. Not by a long shot. What happened? How did the mid-career success that looked so attainable when we were in our 20s become such an illusory mirage, a mean-spirited joke that is hammering our generation into a place of fear and stress? A lot has happened, it turns out, much of which probably could not have been avoided or predicted. But, it happened nonetheless. The Cold War ended. The rise of China happened. The Internet happened. The tech wreck of 2002 happened. The financial crisis of 2008 happened. The breakdown in corporate governance happened. If I had told you, in 1989, that over the next 25 years, China would overtake Japan as the world’s second largest economy, the USSR would disintegrate - causing a big reduction in the well-paying defense industry, that new technologies would enable real time white and blue collar collaboration anywhere in the world – enabling a vast shrinkage of the American employment base, that financial disruptions would flatten retirement savings schemes twice, that CEOs would face virtually no accountability or consequences for bad decisions and be able to enrich themselves dramatically without any reciprocal loyalty to employees – you would have thought I was either crazy or exaggerating. But, that’s essentially what’s happened. That’s the bad part of our new midlife crisis. It was forced on us. At least in the Don Draper days, if you wanted to act out, you had the freedom of choice. Skipping today’s crisis is not an option. It’s a very disempowering notion, disturbing perhaps, but think about it: Am I wrong? Surely, the reality is somewhat different for each of us. (I know. Stop calling me “Shirley.”) It’s not as if every American over 40 is desperate and in trouble. However, I think most people would agree that the risks of career instability and financial reversals are far greater than they were a generation ago, that the potential to get and hold onto a long-term high earning position have been significantly degraded. How secure do you feel about retirement? If you’re not worried, you’re not really paying enough attention. We’ve been disempowered as a generation. This is troubling. Yet, we do not need to be victims. I truly believe that we can achieve financial security, success, and satisfaction with our working lives. To get there, though, we need to rethink what it means to work. Getting empowered means discovering where we add value in the business world and executing a personal strategy for extracting that value from corporations. In a lot of cases, this is not going to involve having an actual salary-paying job. Jobs these days for people over forty are a bit harder to find than they used to be and their long term prospects are not as secure as anything we might have imagined a generation ago. I think self-employment is going to be our ticket out of midlife disempowerment, out of our unwanted midlife crisis. What does self-employment look like for you? You have more options than you realize. Maybe the whole idea frightens you to death. I understand. But, if you look at the alternatives, the idea of supporting yourself through your own initiative and value creation might start to look at lot more appetizing. Are you ready to empower yourself in midlife? Let’s start the journey. This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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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: