Interesting things seem to happen to me all the time.
Only 2 weeks ago, for example, I joined a meeting on storytelling techniques with a couple of colleagues from different companies. The organizer of the meeting had hired an external expert on the matter to share her experience and views. That turned out to be starting point for a very lively discussion, but maybe not entirely as we had imagined upfront.
A lively discussion (mostly after the meeting)
Guess what? The presentation was a thought-provoking one, triggering a bunch of questions and sparking off a lively debate around the conference table. Being a talented speaker and conversationalist, the storytelling expert really managed to direct the meeting and helped each one of us define a number of tangible action points. But as things went, the discussion became even more intense once the meeting was over.
Why’s that? Well, I was actually looking forward to getting the speaker’s digital presentation handouts but was quite surprised (and a bit disappointed as well) that this was not going to happen. Everybody did get a printout – and while that’s a good thing, I find it so restrictive. After all, I have grown up in a society where information is readily available in a digital format. I expect that to be no different in my professional life. Well, it turned out that I was not entirely on the same page with some of my older colleagues. Hence, the lively after-meeting discussion.
Protecting is good, but could it be that sharing is better?
Ok, I understand their arguments and I do realize that – because of confidentiality reasons – it is not always possible to digitally share presentation handouts. But that’s not the kind of situation I am talking about right now, nor was this the context of the meeting we had 2 weeks ago. And while the storytelling expert did a great job at the time, I cannot help feeling that by digitally sharing her presentation she could have got a much wider visibility for her ideas.
Of course, it does take courage to share digital handouts of a carefully crafted presentation on which you’ve spent a lot of time. I imagine that the fear is always there that somebody else will take the credit for it. But the fact is, there is just no way protecting your digital handouts once you take your content to the outside world. Even when you’re giving a presentation by beaming your slides on a projector screen, you have people around that will use their digital camera or smartphone to capture what you are presenting.
Sharing makes people come back to you
But then, let me ask you this. Instead of investing time and effort to protect your content, shouldn’t you rather think about the opportunities you can create by sharing that beautifully crafted presentation? As soon as anybody in your audience downloads your digital handouts, it’s another copy of your business card they are saving on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. And if that content is useful to them (why else would they download your handouts in the first place?), then you’ve won a great advocate for your work.
As I see it, people in your audience will come back to you whenever expertise is needed on the subject of your presentation. And by having the possibility to digitally share it, they will also spread the word. They will even endorse you, and share your digital business card with many others. So rather than abusing your ownership, they will actually make it stronger and create new opportunities for you. Personally, I don’t know of any better example of how you can protect your interests.