Why You Should Consider Dropping PowerPoints in Favour of Narrative Structures
Office Chairs UK, 02/08/2018
For many of you, company meetings are hardly the highlight of your week. Dull PowerPoint presentations with the odd chart to spice things up and constant reading off slides, you often find yourself daydreaming about what your life as an astronaut would be like had you been better at maths. That or what you’re having for dinner that night. [Issue] Either way, whilst they’re boring, you can’t imagine office life without your weekly PowerPoint shows. I mean, how else could you find out what was happening in the company? You definitely wouldn’t read a 10-page email, so alas you must bear them.
But what if there was an alternative?
For those who keep their ear to the ground when it comes to tech news, you will be aware of the fascinating way that Jeff Bezos runs his executive meetings over at Amazon HQ. For those of you not up to date, Mr Bezos has scrapped PowerPoint in meetings and replaced them with narrative structures. Reminiscent of university seminars, he has all attendees read a 6-page document written in the narrative structure containing all relevant information, with everyone discussing it after half an hour. Whilst this may seem extreme, should you consider getting on board with a PowerPoint-free meeting lifestyle too? We at Office Chairs UK have done the research for you and are here to tell you everything you need to know about letting PowerPoint go in the workplace.
What is narrative structure?
The narrative structure is when something is written in whole sentences (so say goodbye to your beloved bullet lists) in a storytelling style. Whilst storytelling may seem out of place in a business situation, the introduction to this article was written in this format (more on that later). Furthermore, a fascinating piece by Inc explains how we are more easily engaged in this style of text instead of a list of facts.
So, what is so good about narrative structure?
There are many advantages to using a more flowing written style in presentations. As we have already mentioned, we are more easily engaged with story style content. It has been found that the brain is wired to process emotions quicker than other forms of information. This makes stories an effective way to persuade people to your point of view.
But what was so bad about PowerPoint?
Recent research by Harvard has shown that not only does PowerPoint not increasing the amount of information passed onto your audience, but it also doesn’t improve the image of your company you are portraying. They are not engaging, and simply reading off the slides makes you look like you don’t know what you are talking about. In fact, the researchers concluded that verbal presentations with no visual aid were just as good as PowerPoints – so maybe you should save yourself sometime and just take prompt cards with you to your next meeting.
… if you aren’t ready to ditch your aesthetic slides and pretty graphs just yet; need to have visuals; or simply don’t wish to waste paper printing loads of handouts for everyone in attendance, there is a solution: merging the two concepts. The main thing to keep in mind with PowerPoint is to keep text to a minimum, if you use them at all, resisting all urges to insert yet another bullet point list. Really focus on what you are saying, and how you say it. Learn what you are saying and make it engaging. No one is there for fabulously curated stock images, they want to know what you have got to say. Talking of which…
How to write a killer narrative presentation
Whilst you may not feel like creative writing is something that comes naturally to you, the narrative does not have to be complicated and full of every clever pun under the sun to be engaging. The most important part is to keep each section short and to get to the point so as to keep people interested. Furthermore, try and have a catchy opening to get people hooked. It is said that you only have 30 seconds to get people engaged, so don’t waste them!
Still not convinced? The Harvard Business Review has written a fascinating article on writing engaging narrative, which we have summarised below (you can read the whole article here):
Opening: Explain the current situation, highlighting any issues. This is a good time to put in any personal anecdotes, such as struggles you’ve faced, to explain the issues and to show how you came to your solution.
Middle: Zoom in on an issue, and then present a possible future by using your solution.
Close: Summarise your presentation. Don’t just reel off a to-do list, instead, emphasise the end goal; what you are aiming for. This will encourage people to support you in your idea because they are now equally invested in the end goal.
If you want an example of how this works, you only have to re-read this article. I’m sure many of you were confused by the square brackets placed throughout the opening paragraphs, probably thinking I’d forgotten to delete placeholders. However, now you know the secret to a narratively structured presentation you will be able to recognise how I’ve highlighted each part required to present a solution to an issue during a presentation.
We hope you now have a better understanding of what narrative structure is and how it could replace or be used with PowerPoint. [End Goal] With this knowledge, you will now be able to create more engaging presentations and pass on important information more effectively.