Finding your Presentations Story

 In Storytelling

Skip Walter was asked to present at the Institute of Design Strategy Conference on May 9-10, 2012. The requested topic was to describe how human centered design was used in a company he had started. He had talked about the topic before, but in 2 hours not 40 minutes. We had a little over two weeks to pull the presentation deck together, but it was one where we each already had a number of things scheduled.

He liked my painting from the When Science and Art Dance post for the title slide, but asked me to put mathematical formulas on the left side instead of 1’s and 0’s.

I asked him to tell me what he liked about the painting, what details were saying something to him about his topic. We also spent several hours where he talked and took notes on a whiteboard about what he wanted to say. From there he went back to his office to outline his presentation and see what slides he had. I went to the studio to start painting the themes I heard.

A dialogue between slides and paint

The first rough cut was a mishmash of slides with pictures from a variety of places and styles, bullet lists and charts, with logos and different templates. The script had a lot of detail about what happened with who and when.

My paintings were more about the energy that emerges when words and pictures come together.

I’d talk a bit about what I was seeing as the essence of the story. He would take out a bunch of detail.

I saw a flow between the sides of science and art. He saw Design emerging from this energy in the middle. The essence of the story was coming together. Memories of other pieces that fed the core of the storyline began to emerge as the detail fell away.

Walk into your story

The story really began to shift when Skip printed out his slides and put them up on the wall. When you do that you can walk into it, toward it, and see other possibilities of sequence that are hard to discern when you are looking at them in a Powerpoint window. Once that story became clearer, I could paint to support it.

A transformed presentation

At the end of two weeks, there were few words left on the slides. The story had crystallized and focused. You can see the script and images with their headings at When Science and Art Dance- Business Results

How can you do this?

In this case, we had a scientist and an artist to play back and forth between the sides, which worked well. But you could also have two people decide to play those roles. One write a story, the other finds images that say something about the ideas. Start with really rough drafts. Talk about ideas at each stage. Allow each others work to influence you. See what emerges.

Don’t take a huge amount of time. We had to work quickly, so there wasn’t time to get attached to details or to pick on them. We kept moving, and the issues worked themselves out in the end.


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