All Natural Presentations: Michael Pollan

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Do you really need those slides?

These days it seems the very act of giving a presentation comes with the expectation that at least a few PowerPoint slides will be involved. If you’ve ever tried telling your boss you don't want to use slides in a presentation, chances are the response you got was a shocked, gasping, “why not?”

Well, because slides aren’t always necessary, that’s why. In fact, sometimes a presentation is better without them. It just depends on the content and context.

Too often people forget the purpose of slides. They are a useful tool to support your message, not take its place. When they’re used well, good slides can take an ordinary presentation from good to great, but it’s important to remember they are never as important as having a good story to tell in the first place.

I was reminded of this when I came across a talk recently given by Michael Pollan in the Authors@Google series. Michael is the author of five books, including The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, both New York Times bestsellers. He also happens to be an expert storyteller.

Even without a single visual, Michael’s presentation is vivid and engaging. He skillfully uses words and stories instead of slides to paint the pictures of his narrative. He even includes several statistics throughout his speech, not skipping a single beat as he recalls them from memory (an indicator of good preparation).

Michael’s presentation is a reminder that while slides can add a lot, having an interesting story to tell is what ultimately makes or breaks your presentation.

With no slides distracting our attention, we listen more closely to his words. It's almost as though he's telling us a few stories from across a dinner table, which is a style that works exceptionally well for his context and content.

Check out his Authors@Google presentation below, as well as his 2007 TED talk.

If you're not familiar with Michael Pollan’s work, you're in for a treat. I can guarantee you'll find his perspectives on food and nature fascinating, potentially even life changing. Enjoy!