Farmer’s Law

Your presentation slides are due on …

  1. These discouraging words appear frequently in my inbox: indeed, only slightly more frequently than, Your slides were due. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy public speaking but, except where I need to share specific technical examples, I prefer to work without visual support.
  2. Some event organizers believe a speaker cannot hold an audience without projected notes, or at the least, background images. Yet here is the philosopher Alva Noë, speaking with unflagging attention for an hour about art and human nature, or Gabor Maté on emotional eating disorders. Neither speaker is showy or gimmicky; they are both knowledgeable, articulate and unscripted, although not unstructured, in their approach.
  3. And of course, fine speakers have always been able to hold their audience with the minimum of fuss, including Oscar Wilde on his famous lecture tour of the USA in 1882.

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  1. Even when an event team must have slides, I find the subjects on which I want to speak do not afford easy illustration. Search for images to accompany authenticity, empathy or intention: the results are often in the form of would-be-motivational, but mostly indistinguishable, posters.
  2. Should you want illustrations for brainstorming, innovation or data storytelling, you’ll wander into the territories of the worst clip-art. For the stout-hearted, try thinking outside the box.
  3. This experience led me to formulate Farmer’s Law: The utility of a business concept is inversely proportional to the cheesiness of the clip-art used to illustrate it.
  4. This Law, in its attempt to clarify a messy situation, is likely unfair to some. But is that not the way with all human laws? Perhaps this one, too, has its uses.

And now, naturally, I have made a rod for my own back, as I must find only the best and most illustrative clip-art for my blog. As Somerset Maugham wrote, Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that a man can pursue.

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