How to do a great presentation without a computer or any electronic devices

Dr. Sletten

Mayo Clinic’s Christopher Sletten, Ph.D., ABPP discussing Central Sensitization Syndrome, which is the prevailing theory of the cause of chronic pain & other chronic symptoms.

I’ve been frustrated by looking at endless pitch decks – no matter how well executed they are. Here’s the problem: startups are all about process, connections, and flow. With a sequence of separate screens, as employed in PowerPoint, Keynote, and most other presentation software, it is very hard to present the connections and flows between key elements of founding and growing a company. While I’ve seen some very good animations, animations take a lot of work and they still make for a very passive experience for the audience. So when my wife found this YouTube video of Dr. Christopher Sletten’s 13 minute presentation explaining the concept of Central Sensitization Syndrome for a lay audience I finally found the alternative to presentation software that I was looking for.

As you can see, Dr. Sletten starts off with a simple well-labeled drawing on a large whiteboard that illustrates the core of his presentation. Dr. Sletten draws as he speaks, his words and the growing diagram capture the viewers attention and equally importantly, require some effort on the part of the viewer to concentrate as different parts are added to the initial diagram, ending with a full picture of how the CSS syndrome operates, as a complex process involving many moving parts, as shown in the screen capture below.

Sletten 2

Ok, so Dr. Sletten is no professional graphic artist, without watching the video and listening to Dr. Sletten as he expands the initial diagram, you might find it just a messy bunch of words and arrows. But after I finished watching the full presentation, I not only had a clear understanding of what Central Sensitization Syndrome was, but how the brain, nervous system, bodily sensors, and external factors all interrelate. And I have zero medical training or education.

So without benefit of a computer, presentation software, or projector, Dr. Sletten did one of the best presentations on a technical topic I have ever seen: clear, concise, and engaging. About all it lacked, was humor, which is a nice to have, but hardly a need to have, especially when talking about chronic pain and other chronic syndromes. The goal of the presentation was very clear: To provide a patient and/or provider an understanding of the CSS process that could lead to seeking appropriate treatment, including the Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic’s Florida clinic. Yep, you just watched a pitch for the Mayo Clinic, but while you were doing it you got educated, and I would expect as I was, engaged.

What’s the connection between a medical presentation and a startup pitch deck? Both have similar goals: educate the audience about a problem, in this case CSS, and lead them to a solution, in this case Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehab Center. Dr. Sletten spends all his time on presenting the problem, CSS syndrome, and virtually no time, on the solution, The Pain Rehab Center. But you can easily imagine how he could extend the presentation by adding a section on how the Pain Rehab Center addresses the problem of chronic pain.

One big advantage, and I do mean big, of using a large whiteboard rather than a projector with static slides is that the viewer can see the big picture. Something you just don’t see in slide decks, which break up the big picture into small chunks. The best approach I’ve seen to presenting the big picture before viewing Dr. Sletten’s presentation has been the business model canvas, which is not designed for presentation purposes but does present all of the constituent parts of a startup, while lacking the connections and process flow of a live illustration.

Part of the reason creating a live process flow diagram as you speak is engaging is that much like music or film, the audience is engaged through the process of expectation and anticipation: what will he draw next? How does it connect with the rest of the diagram? Just as when listening to music we anticipate, the resolution of a chord progression or watching a movie, the resolution of conflict.

Even if you are not convinced to leave your computer at home and use a large whiteboard and colored markers instead, diagramming the flow, process and connections of your business is a great exercise for your team. I suggest you use the nine elements of the business model canvas as a starting point, adding the connections and flows amongst the elements.

A live whiteboard presentation has its limits – it may be impractical for a very large audience. you just might have to bring your own whiteboard, and drawing while talking is a bit like singing while playing guitar, harder than it looks. But just like music, learning to illustrate your business in real time for potential investors, partners, advisors and others takes practice. And as Dr. Sletten has done, you too can then produce a video of your presentation for use when doing it live isn’t practical or share on YouTube or elsewhere.

So while I’ve been trying hard in other posts to kill off the bullet point, I’m now tackling the Don Quixote quest to kill off presentation software entirely, in favor of real time illustrating while talking.

Give Dr. Sletten’s video a look, you can skip over bits to save yourself time if necessary, but it may well change your ideas about how to present your company, and I hope, for the better.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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