Presentations Part 1
They are often used simply to fill time and/or for the sake of going through the motions. They are all too often used in places where alternatives would be more efficient. Simple presenting ‘about’...
They are often used simply to fill time and/or for the sake of going through the motions. They are all too often used in places where alternatives would be more efficient. Simple presenting ‘about’ something can usually be better done by alternatives such as
To make best use of presentations it’s important to remember that they are most effective at passing on ‘emotional’ and ‘conceptual’ information. It is (typically) difficult for audiences to remember information they obtained in presentations which is of a technical and detailed nature - there is considerable research evidence to this effect! Such information is better passed on in one of the other formats.
What presentations are good at, however, is exploring the intelligence held in such information or getting people interested in the details so that they can go and obtain the details for themselves. In an ideal world a presentation would be backed up by documents which
• contain the details that support the presentation; and
• the presentation has made people interested in, so that they want to read the details
(Obviously also there’s the third option where the presentation gives people enough information to know they don’t want to read the detailed documents! :) )
This approach can best be summed up in the idea that one should not think of presentations as being about something (only) but also being to do something. Presentations which are merely about something can be generally done in more efficient ways. This is a simple mental shift but one which has profound implications in terms of both whether presentations go ahead in the first place and what kind of information is included in them (as well as how it is presented).
Presentations, in short, are best used when it is important to make a change in behaviour after the presentation.
Penetration vs Retention
Like all forms of communication, presentations are based upon two concepts: penetration and retention.
Penetration is a jargon term for getting information into your audience’s mind. It involves both physically being able to access the information and intellectually being able to process it to understand it. Without penetration, communication cannot be said to have taken place.
Using the analogy of reading a newspaper, penetration includes the acts of buying and reading the newspaper, and being able to understand the stories in it. Implicit in these acts are such things as being able to find a vendor for the paper, being able to afford it, being able to understand the language it is written in, being able to see the text and so on.
Retention is the terms used for the process of keeping the information which penetrated in the minds of the audience. Obviously retention is dependent upon penetration but penetration alone isn’t enough as, generally speaking, a person’s behaviour will only be changed by their memory of the information - that is, what they retain.
Continuing with the analogy of reading the newspaper, this equates to such things as being able to discuss the stories intelligently over a meal with friends later or even being able to read a follow-on story the next day (or a contradictory story in a different paper in a meaningful way).
In order to affect change in someone’s subsequent behaviour, both penetration and retention are necessary.
Unfortunately, most presentations concentrate far too heavily on providing huge amounts of information. While this might increase the amount of information which in the penetration stage it can have the contrary effect on the amount of information in the retention stage.
In other words - by providing too much information in the presentation there’s actually a reduced chance of audience members accepting, remembering and acting upon that information. As the advertising industry knows a confused mind never says yes. For the presenter this provides the challenge of reducing the amount of information given in a presentation to the minimum necessary to achieve the desired result.
Judging this (of course) is the hard part! Generally speaking, however, the evidence is that there is a surprising (and disappointingly) low level of retention. Most presentations contain a counter-productive amount of information.
Occasional presenters (as opposed to those who do it regularly and professionally) tend to ‘hide behind’ providing vast amounts of information as a way of both dealing with their fear of knowing what to say and being exposed; and of having to spend time thinking about and designing their presentation.
To cut the chase, for presentations - less is more.
Deciding what to say
The more of an expert you are on any given issue, the more tempting it is to simply pass information to your audience without much editing of that information or design in the presentation. The video outlines one very useful approach to doing this, using a flow chart. You can download a free, four-page PDF document from our website at http://www.curved-vision.co.uk/evolution_of_a_slide.pdf. (Note that the apparent spaces here are actually underscores, ‘_’).
Obviously there are alternative ways of doing this kind of thing and it is more important you have a system than that you use this system.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Simon Raybould is the author of a book on voice (The Little Big Voice) and an ebook on business presentations
..... with fantastic results!