One of Aristotle’s seven golden rules for stellar stories is to have a theme. Does Lord of the Rings have a theme? Yes, the ring. Does Star Wars have a theme? Yes, the fight of forces. Do your PowerPoint presentations have a theme?
In my first nine years and three months as a public speaking coach I have received, analyzed and modified, approximately, 12,000 PowerPoint slides. I have seen it all: bullet-point chaos, pixelated stock photos and designs that make Steve Jobs throw up – post mortem.
But – in this article I want to address a different issue. Whether it is free speech or a presentation with slides, you can always benefit from Aristotle’s wisdom by using a theme.
For me, the three main benefits of a theme are:
- One theme throughout the talk helps your audience to follow it more easily.
- A theme can host a series of entertaining stories and examples.
- In the end, a theme makes your content more tangible, more relatable, more memorable.
So – where is your theme then?
The great Mark Twain said, All generalizations are false, including this one. Looking back at my 12,000 slides I would almost have to disagree with Mr. Twain. Almost 100% of all people I have worked with throw a series of generic, soulless pieces of information at the wall, only tied together by boring corporate templates.
Imagine you have to give a presentation to the board of directors of your company. Imagine your topic is Customer Relationship Management.
Hypothetically, one of your 34 slides could look like this one …
Now I hear you scream, No Flo, this is so nineties. I use images in my presentations!!
Great! But – has anything changed in terms of generic, soulless content? Nothing. Do you really believe I remember any piece of information on those 34 slides?
It would be much better to use a theme. In our case you could use one specific client. A client with a face, a family, a life. A client with dreams and broken dreams, with ups and downs, with good days and bad days. A human being. Let’s call him Mr. Miller.
Hypothetically, Mr. Miller has been a customer of your company for eight years. He has always been a good customer. His online purchases had gone up constantly till one day six months ago. The relationship stopped abruptly. Silence.
What had failed in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
How did you find out about Mr. Miller’s real issue?
How did you treat Mr. Miller once you had found out?
How did you win him back as a customer?
Mr. Miller could serve as an excellent theme for your CRM presentation.
Then, of course, your slides would also look different – more human, more relatable.
There are endless opportunities to use themes in business presentations.
Imagine you present the globalization strategy of your company. Use that one plant in Novosibirsk as a theme to explain all the processes involved. With real people, real dialogs, real life.
Imagine you present the services of your online advertizing agency. Use that one big campaign of that one client as a theme. With real people, real dialogs, real life.
Imagine you are a data scientist at a global retailer. Use one product as a theme, for example a strawberry chocolate bar, to present all your logical data. That strawberry chocolate bar will help you make the intangible tangible.
Themes are not an exclusive right owned by George Lucas or J.R.R. Tolkien. You can also use them to enhance the quality of your presentations – THEMATICALLY!