Kids say the darnedest things, right? I'm sure if you sit an think for just a minute, you can remember something quite funny or interesting a child has said to you recently. Kids are quite unique, especially around the 5-7 year old range where they start to get really curious and outspoken. Not to say that 15 year olds aren't outspoken - I pretty much knew everything there was to know at age 15 - but 6 year olds have a cute way of saying it.
But as we grow old, we lose some of that childishness. We also lose our fearlessness, and our creativity (to a point). Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful presentation on the TED site where he talks about how schools kill creativity. It's one of my all-time favorite presentations, and he brings up some valid points.
This brings me to the conclusion I came to while washing the dishes tonight - we become worse presenters as we get older. Which is to say, we (myself included) were better presenters when we were in kindergarten.
Remember what it was like back then, when words just seemed to spill out of our mouths? We rarely stopped to wonder if what we were saying was politically correct, or if it was on-brand. We didn't care much what the boss thought, and didn't fear rejection (as much).
A kindergartener stands in front of her peers and says what she is thinking, with no fear of repercussions. As we got older, those fears crept inside of us. Instead of fearlessly pushing the envelope and exploring our boundaries, we tend to take the safe route - the route that doesn't affect our grade; the route that doesn't get us fired (or promoted); the route that doesn't force the audience to question the status quo.
In kindergarten, we weren't afraid to color outside the lines. The dark black boundaries were more of a "guideline" than anything. If our minds said "color the whole damn page purple" then that's what we did. Nowadays most PowerPoints stay "inside the lines" - bland corporate templates with bullet-point-ridden slides and paragraphs full of text. Using a full bleed image is too crazy. Downloading an original font is not the XYZ Company way.
Trust me - I would bet money that a kindergartener could create a better PowerPoint presentation than the average cubicle dweller uneducated in the presentation design basics. They could at least tell a more engaging story!
A good friend of mine texted me today. He is very well versed in presentation design, but because his company has strict guidelines, his PowerPoint had turned into a slideument. He was thoroughly depressed. It was as if he had to pull the switch on a prisoner he knew was innocent. He knew the right thing to do, but there was nothing he could do about it. The system won.
At your next presentation, try to do your best kindergartner impression. Be fearless. Color outside the lines. Take risks. Tell stories. Forget the system. Maybe that's just what you need.