shiny happy peopleA couple months ago I was asked to help some colleagues design and deliver a major presentation for a project at a children’s hospital.  We didn’t have much time to plan our strategy. To get started I did a short email survey asking everyone what they thought the main message/theme of the presentation should be, and I chatted with my colleagues who knew the audience best.   In the end we chose a simple but meaningful theme “It’s about the kids”.

We wanted the presentation visuals to amplify our message.  This turned out to be a challenge. All we could find in our marketing database were images of “shiny happy children”, positioned to show off the healthcare technologies.  Even the most professional stock images are composed versions of reality and (typically) look like stock images. In reality, children are rarely happy in the healthcare environment; health professionals make considerable effort to reduce children’s’ fear and anxiety.

I was pretty sure our audience at the children’s hospital would have seen enough stock images from the groups who presented before us.  We decided to take a different path, and use images of children we knew.  The team was great about volunteering pictures of their own children or grandchildren.  Some of the children of the local team had even been patients at the hospital in which we were presenting.  It was a case of ‘let the medium be the message’ … we had more than just a professional interest in their project.

At the end of the presentation we disclosed who the children were and each team member told a brief story about their picture.  The presentation ended with all of us in the same place: a bunch of people (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) talking about – and connecting over – our kids.  (Note:  for reasons of privacy our handouts did not include the pictures.)

Presentations are about people communicating with people, not marketing departments communicating with procurement departments.  Try using pictures of ‘real’ people in your next presentation (with their permission of course). The advantage is that your audience will know that they are speaking with real human beings.

Joe P


R.E.M. – Shiny happy people 1991