[PUBLIC SPEAKING] How to do a 2-hour workshop without PowerPoint

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

epharma summit session 2016 I’ve been working on making this year’s keynotes and workshops different. I’m trying to do fewer PowerPoints, more and different interaction and keep things even more interesting for attendees. I’ve even started using stand-up comedy techniques. Yup, learn from wherever necessary.

In February 2016 in New York City, I was leading a 2-hour workshop on authentic storytelling in the pharma industry and attendees ranged from marketing executives, to front-line staff to patients. It was great to see that the organizer invited patients and all of the ones I was aware of were super engaged in the discussions during my session. Many from other fields were as well.

So, I tried something a bit different for my session. I had no PowerPoint at all. We did put my Twitter handle and the three-day conference’s hashtag (#epharma16) up on the screen to encourage tweeting (and quoting). There were over 25 million Twitter impressions, by the way, and you can see the complete stats at the bottom of this post.

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epharma summit suitMy style has been to present in suit and tie. It looks professional – during the presentation and conference as well as in pictures that people post to social media from the event. But, I thought I’d try something different this time around. I had four sections in my talk that were worth discussing to get a culture of storytelling going.

The four pieces were:

  • Culture
  • Legal
  • Privacy
  • Status Quo

We discussed how these are impacting content marketing and storytelling strategies and discussed ways to overcome perceived and real barriers. Each section had its own exercise and interactive components. I called the four pieces the layers to get started. To represent the layers, I started the session off in a suit and tie – my usual attire. Then took my tie, jacket and dress shirt off to show the first of four shirts. Each shirt showed the current term in letters on it. Culture, then Legal, then Privacy and finally Status Quo. As we were moving through our discussion I revealed one shirt after another to move the session along. I didn’t even get too warm. Ha.

“For those brand police officers of you out there, you might be interested in knowing that the blue on the shirts is the same blue as the blue on the cover of my book,” – I said to laughs, even though this was the truth. Ha.

The shirts ended up on stage next to each other by the time we were done. I was told that people found it very visual and memorable. The session received high marks and mostly positive feedback,

epharma presentation

Will I do this exact same thing again? It’s unlikely. Mostly because I don’t like my look in t-shirts while presenting to large groups. It feels a bit too casual. Even though in this case it seemed to keep people’s attention and stood out from the typical presentation. It’s a classic case of trying to align our own needs and wants with those of our audiences. In general, I’m usually for doing what the audience wants and is best to tell the story in the most meaningful way – within reason, of course.

If I don’t do this exact same thing again, I’m sure there are other ways to avoid death by PowerPoint – for me and my audience. Working on thinking about that now.

Either way, it’s fun to try new things. It felt strange to take off my jacket, tie and shirt in front of a standing-room only crowd. I joked that it’s OK, since “I’m already picturing all of you in your underwear.” As you may know, that’s an alleged trick to work on public speaking anxiety: Picture your audience in their underwear. I don’t actually do that, but it got me some laughs.

Overall, a great trip and event in New York City. It’s always great to see and hear when people are interested in sharing their and their organizations’ authentic stories.

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#ePharma16 Twitter stats

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