Last Tuesday at 9 at night I was standing in my living room hitting the forward button on a power point. Three of my friends sat on my couch drinking wine and taking notes. I’d have preferred to be running in the park or making dinner for my sweetie. But instead I was practicing for a briefing with 50 social justice funders, on strategic communications.

When I finished explaining the difference between strategic communications and tactical communication, Sean Sullivan, a dear friend and the in-house counsel at the United Way of New York City said, “You had no words on your slides. If I did a presentation with just cats and other silly images no one would get it. It wouldn’t go well.”

He was right, my slides were a collection of cats, the crew from Star Trek the Next Generation, Morpheus from The Matrix, and even some ridiculous corporate clip art. And of course, no words. 

Sean was also wrong. The next day he tweeted, “My mind was blown by @JTPspeaks strategic comms ppt; I’m using cute animal pics in a presentation today. If I get fired, I’m blaming Joe.”

He told me later in the week that the presentation CRUSHED! His colleagues told him it was hilarious and brilliant.

Sean later reflected to me, “The images served a couple of purposes. When some people laughed at the slides it brought everyone’s attention back into the room. The images tied the information I was presenting to an entertaining memory and a good feeling. It made the whole thing more memorable at an emotional and narrative level.

People do not relate to the world through a factual logic filter, in fact we rely on stories and narratives entwined with emotional cues to make sense of the world, make decisions, and incorporate new information and concepts into our mental models

When I design a presentation my primary goal is to have a memorable experience that creates a story for them to share with others later and that they will reflect on with good feelings. I am not scared to use cute photos of kittens to get people to feel warm and fuzzy so they will pick up what I am putting down.

Enjoy… and remember!

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