Last week I found myself sitting through a full day's worth of corporate presentations, each of them supported by the usual array of PowerPoint slides. And when I say 'usual' I really mean it. Amongst the dozen or so presentations, there was not one that stood out in any way. Putting aside the fact that most of the slides broke the cardinal rule of including far too much text, there was simply no evidence of any creativity on display at all.
The speakers themselves were fine. They all seemed comfortable behind the lectern, were properly prepared and presented structured information. They all, thankfully, were conscious of the time.
It's just that there was nothing vaguely memorable about any of them.
The myth of the non-creative type
Superficially the reason for this lack of inventiveness could be sheeted home to the fact that most of the presenters were public servants and all worked in a science- or engineering-related field. They were likely the kids who did science and maths at school, not art and music.
But I'm almost certain that wasn't the reason for the blandness. The idea that engineering types aren't capable of being creative is simply wrong. I'm living proof of that – a metallurgical engineer who now makes a living as a writer – and I know many, many others in the same boat. I would suggest that virtually every 'non-creative' person I know has at least one creative outlet, whether it be music or painting or woodwork or drama or photography or anything else.
No, it's not that these people couldn't be creative. It's that they chose not to be.
The 'work-day' face too often hides real person
What we in the audience got from each of the presenters was their 'work-day' face. The presenters seemed to feel that to come across as professional they had to present professionally, which somehow required them to offer up slides that were dry, wordy and boring. It meant that any semblance of the 'real' person behind that work-day face was to be suppressed.
I don't know how we got to this point – the convention that the professional and personal are not to be mixed – but it would be great if we could break out of it.
For one, when we allow our personal side, and especially our personal talents, to mesh with our work, work becomes a whole lot more interesting.
Allowing in the personal builds satisfaction – for everyone
Years ago I worked as a recruitment consultant. While I found aspects of the job quite procedural, an upside was that I had to multitask: I had to sell, consult, market opportunities and interview candidates. One of my favourite tasks was the writing of job advertisements. In this I was encouraged to be creative, regardless of the fact that my background was engineering. It was in this task that I discovered that writing imaginatively and persuasively was something that I could actually do. Ultimately it would lead to my finding the confidence to pursue the sort of work I do today.
Lately I've been starting to take this a step further by bringing my greatest passion, photography, into my work. It's something I've hesitated about in the past because I don't want to destroy that passion. I've now come to the view that that doesn't make sense.
I honestly believe that if the presenters I saw last week had allowed themselves the liberty to reveal a little of themselves in their presentations – in what they said, in the way they structured their talks or in the way they built their slides – both they, and their audience, would have enjoyed a more satisfying experience.
My challenge to you is to think about what aspects of your 'private' personality you could bring to your work, to the benefit of both you and the work. What can you do to mix, rather than balance, work and life? Maybe it's time to write that book after all?
Go on. Break out.
My first foray into bringing photography into my business has been to produce a high quality photographic calendar for 2016, focused along Melbourne's famous number 96 tram route. If you're interested, check it out here.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.