Over the last couple weeks, one of the other Strengthscope™ partners, Mike Miller, and I worked together on a large workshop. Originally, the session was pitched as a number of smaller breakouts, but was changed to take advantage of the whole team (100+ people) being together — which, of course, meant we had to modify the presentation significantly.
Along with many other format changes, we decided to up our technology game to help provide some extra punch/pizazz/yahoo, etc. This included upgrading Mike’s PowerPoints to the only kind of presentation software I use, Prezi, and trying out a new (to me) product called Poll Everywhere.*
Mike was the main presenter for the day, and I was on hand to help with the group facilitation. After our session, we were making our way back to the hotel room to change clothes and we started talking about the technology part of the day. Due to last minute tech challenges (see footnote), in addition to helping with the groups I also ended up being at the A/V station to help run the tech, as I am what they call, ahem, nerdy.
As we stood in the hallway, Mike mentioned how crucial I was to making the day happen (thank you kindly), but I truthfully didn’t see any other option. We had a story to tell, and the tech was an central part of making that happen.
In our conversation, we quickly realized that tech isn’t just tech anymore. Our technology is now an integral part of what makes the story work.
Of course, it can also be a huge part of what makes the story suck, as anyone who’s sat through a death-by-bullet-point 132-slide PowerPoint seminar can tell you.
“Information technology” used to be some kind of separate department — now, it either helps us work smarter/better/faster… or it’s taking us in the wrong direction. (To be fair, it’s probably always done those things. But there used to be a certain amount of novelty which would cover up failures. That is now long gone.)
In other words, if I’m back at the A/V table cursing because the tech doesn’t work, it isn’t because I have anger management issues. It’s because technology exists for one reason: to help us do things better. If it’s not doing this, it’s unequivocally failing.
The other lesson to learn here is that people who run tech aren’t just running computers, are they? They are a vital part of the storytelling craft — if we let them be.**
*If you’re curious, my experience with this software was not good at all, and I will not be using it again until they provide some substantive updates. It’s a great concept — but so far, horrible execution. It singlehandedly made the 24 hour period of my life surrounding this workshop infinitely much more difficult than it should have been.
**Of course, this is true for almost any “menial” job. There’s almost always a larger story — a greater purpose — that’s actually at stake. Most leaders just let their followers forget what that bigger picture is.